The case of the Darvell brothers looks set to become the latest miscarriage of justice and will intensify concern about safeguards available to suspects during police interrogations.
It is understood that the CPS's decision not to argue the appeal is largely based on new evidence which suggests that the confession of one of the brothers was unreliable because it only contained information which the police knew of beforehand, some of which later turned out to be inaccurate.
Esda testing - a scientific method of detecting whether documents have been altered - has shown that police records of interviews with the brothers were found to have been made in notebooks not issued until several months later.
Three police officers have been suspended as a result of the inquiry and four as a result of ancilliary investigations into other cases, said to involve up to 12 people. Wayne and Paul Darvell, now in their late 20s, have been in prison since their arrest in June 1985, a day after the murder of the manageress of a Swansea sex shop, who had been raped, battered and strangled. They were convicted at Swansea Crown Court in June 1986; Paul Darvell was sentenced to 20 years and Wayne Darvell to 15 years.
Mark Hancock, their solicitor, said yesterday that he was unable to comment on the Crown's response to their grounds of appeal. The hearing, before Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, is due to open next Monday and is likely to last a couple of days.
Technically, the court has the power to uphold a conviction even if the Crown says that it will not contest an appeal, but in practice this is rare and there are no obvious reasons why the Darvell convictions will not be declared unsafe and unsatisfactory. However, the court has made in clear recently that it is the 'sole arbitor' of appeals and a substantial hearing cannot be avoided. The case was re-opened after a petition by Justice, the legal reform body, and a re-examination of the case on the BBC Rough Justice programme. An inquiry by Devon and Cornwall Police discovered discrepancies in police evidence and resulted in the referral back to the Court of Appeal.
The Director of Public Prosecutions will have to decide whether any detectives in the case will face criminal charges.
The prosecution case against the men was based on a confession by Wayne Darvell, saying his brother killed the woman while he watched, before they both robbed the shop and poured petrol over the body and shop. Although circumstantial evidence put them in the area at the time and pointed to them having the petrol, there was no other forensic evidence.
Wayne Darvell denied his confession at the trial and evidence emerged that he was a habitual confessor who often told people in authority what he believed they wanted to hear. The Devon and Cornwall inquiry established that the details in the confession were all known to police who interviewed him.Reuse content