The acquittal of Detective Chief Superintendent Graham Melvin and Detective Inspector Maxwell Dingle was the latest in a series of not-guilty verdicts against officers charged in cases involving miscarriages of justice.
The Old Bailey jury took more than eight-and-a-half hours to reach its decision, returning unanimous verdicts shortly after being told by the judge, Mr Justice Jowitt, that a majority of at least 10-2 would be allowed.
Det Ch Supt Melvin, who had been suspended, will return to work shortly. Det Insp Dingle has retired. After the verdict they issued a statement saying that they had been through 'a terrible ordeal' in the past three years. George Silcott, Winston's brother, who sat in the public gallery, muttered 'farce' and 'bastards' as the verdicts were delivered.
Det Ch Supt Melvin, 52, and Det Insp Dingle, 57, had pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice and Det Ch Supt Melvin also denied perjury. The prosecution alleged that a written account of an interview by Det Ch Supt Melvin with Silcott, which was supposed to be contemporaneous, was later altered to include damaging comments which proved crucial in convicting him.
The note, taken by Det Insp Dingle, said that when Silcott was told police had information that he had been involved in the murder, he had answered: 'They are only kids. No one is going to believe them.' Later, he allegedly added: 'Those kids will never go to court, you wait and see.'
Silcott and two others were convicted of the murder of PC Blakelock, who was hacked to death by a mob during the riot in north London in 1985. But later they were cleared by the Court of Appeal when evidence emerged that police interview notes had been tampered with.
The evidence was provided by a technique known as ESDA (Electrostatic Deposition/Detection Analysis) which detects impressions left on a page when someone writes on the sheet above it. The Old Bailey trial hinged on the ESDA evidence.
After the case, George Silcott said: 'It was not a case of the two police officers being on trial for perjury and perverting the course of justice, it was a case of Winston Silcott on trial once more. It was a farce today and everybody knows it.' But PC Blakelock's widow, Elizabeth, said she was 'very pleased' at the acquittals. She added: 'If the evidence of the investigating officers is now being accepted as sound and truthful, what does that say about the trial and subsequent appeal?'
Winston Silcott is still in prison for another murder. A reopened inquiry into the death of PC Blakelock ended with the case unsolved.
(Photographs omitted)Reuse content