Police accused of orchestrating miscarriage of justice walk free

Officers cleared of perverting course of justice over men wrongly convicted of 1988 murder

Britain's biggest police corruption trial collapsed yesterday after investigators destroyed files of documents, marking the latest high-profile failure to convict officers accused of involvement in notorious miscarriages of justice.

Eight former policemen accused of perverting the course of justice over the wrongful conviction of three men for the murder of prostitute Lynette White in 1988 walked free after a review highlighted a "serious error" by police. A second trial of four other former officers due to be held next year has also been scrapped.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, yesterday ordered a "full and detailed" review into the failings of the prosecution of the South Wales Police officers, who had been investigated by a team from the same force since 2003. Swansea Crown Court heard claims yesterday that the senior investigating officer, Chris Coutts, instructed junior officers to dispose of files that prosecutors had earlier said were relevant to the case.

"It is highly likely... that there is an explanation for these events consistent with serious error rather than deliberate misconduct," said Nick Dean QC, who led the prosecution. He said that Mr Coutts "has not been able to be asked in detail" about his recollection of the events but there were no doubts over his honesty and integrity. The four files found to have been destroyed included a copy of a document that complained about members of the inquiry team and should have been stored away, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

South Wales Police declined to give more detail on the destroyed documents. The force said that it had referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The inquiry into potential police corruption was launched following the notorious case of the "Cardiff Three" – innocent men who were convicted in 1990 of the murder of Miss White, 20. She was found stabbed more than 50 times in her flat over a bookmakers' shop. Stephen Miller, Yusef Abdullahi and Tony Paris were found guilty of the murder in part based on witnesses bullied by police into giving false accounts against them. Two others were acquitted. Mr Miller's solicitor, Matthew Gold, said that he was shocked by the collapse of the trial, the BBC reported. He said his client continued to be "drastically affected" having served four years for a crime he did not commit.

The men were acquitted at the Court of Appeal in 1992. Lord Chief Justice Taylor said: "Short of physical violence, it is hard to conceive of a more hostile and intimidating approach by officers to a suspect."

Following a second investigation, Jeffrey Gafoor, a client of Miss White, pleaded guilty to her murder and is serving a life sentence.

The probe into police corruption was launched afterwards and was conducted by officers from the same force and was overseen by the IPCC from 2004. The investigation led to the arrests in 2005 of members of the original murder squad and two others who gave evidence against the five in 1990.

Most senior among them was ex-superintendent Richard Powell and ex-chief inspectors Thomas Page and Graham Mouncher. They were accused of conspiring with five other police officers on the original inquiry team. They all denied the charges.Outside court, Mr Page called for an inquiry. He said: "I'm just relieved that it's all over now after six and a half years."

The IPCC said no police misconduct charges would be brought against acquitted officers as they had left the force.

Police in the dock: Failed prosecutions

Birmingham Six Charges were dropped against three former detectives said by the Court of Appeal to have lied to secure the convictions of the Birmingham Six. The judge ruled that publicity meant they could not receive a fair trial – but accepted that the case had become "a synonym for forced confession".

Guildford Four Three retired detectives were cleared over accusations they fabricated evidence to frame the Guildford Four, who served 15 years in jail for pub bombings in 1974 that they did not commit.

Stefan Kiszko Mr Kiszko served 16 years in prison for the murder of Lesley Molseed despite claiming that he had been given a pre-written confession to sign. The investigating officer, Det Supt Richard Holland, was later charged with perverting the course of justice, but the prosecution was stopped because of "an abuse of process".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Déjà vu: David Tennant returns to familiar territory with Anna Gunn (‘Breaking Bad’)
tvReview: Something is missing in Gracepoint, and it's not just the familiar names
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?