Drugs-bust police falsified evidence

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The Independent Online
Three men jailed eight years ago for their alleged involvement in a drugs factory were cleared yesterday when the Court of Appeal held that officers of a regional crime squad had falsified their surveillance logbook and lied to the court when challenged about it.

The appeal judges said the Crown's case at the trial - that the log entries made by crime squad officers based at Barkingside, east London, were made contemporaneously with the events - could not be supported. "We are satisfied that the log was written ex post facto," said Lord Justice Ward, sitting with Mr Justice Blofeld and Mr Justice Forbes.

"The authenticity of the log had become such an issue at the trial that doubts about its compilation inevitably cast doubt upon the accuracy, truthfulness and reliability of the other material recorded in it, namely the crucial observations.

"The Crown fully accept that if the evidence of the Regional Crime Squad as to the preparation of the log was false - and we find that it is - then the convictions are unsafe."

The judges had also heard fresh evidence relating to a defence allegation that the detective inspector in charge of the London Docklands drugs bust - code-named Operation Trooper - planted a bag of amphetamines in a car belonging to one defendant.

Lord Justice Ward said a photograph which, it was suggested, might show the officer approaching the car, had been suppressed, and an air of mystery remained around the allegation of planting. The court was not satisfied that drugs were planted, but the fresh evidence was sufficiently credible and cogent that it was capable of inducing a reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors.

The judges quashed the 1988 convictions of Charles "Chic" Matthews and Kevin "Tommy" Hole of conspiring to supply amphetamines. Mr Matthews has served his 10-year sentence, but Mr Hole, who was also convicted of having a bag of the drug in his car with intent to supply, committed suicide while serving his eight-year term. His appeal was referred to the court posthumously by the Home Secretary.

Joe Pykett, who was jailed for 13 years for conspiring to produce and supply amphetamines, was freed with immediate effect.