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 year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
football
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas