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
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil