Inquiry yields 14th quashed conviction

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The Independent Online
A MAN convicted of theft became the 14th person to have his conviction quashed as a result of investigations into the disbanded West Midland Serious Crime Squad, after the Court of Appeal said yesterday there were 'worrying irregularities' in the case.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it was not contesting the appeal of Gary Binham because eight documents or files had gone missing - they included original interview notes containing confessions which Binham said had been fabricated. David Martin-Sperry, for Binham, said the Crown acknowledged that the disappearance of the documents and files 'cannot be mere coincidence'.

Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, sitting with Mr Justice Ward and Mr Justice May, was told that the CPS decided two weeks ago that detectives in the case would not face criminal proceeedings.

Mr Martin-Sperry said Binham, 30, of Winson Green, Birmingham, sentenced to three years in 1986 for a pounds 27,000 jewellery robbery, complained about the squad in July 1989 after the successful appeal of Keith Parchment, in which tests suggested that contemporaneous interview notes had been rewritten.

Two detectives in the Parchment case, DC Michael Quin and DS David Ford, were among those Binham claimed fabricated his confessions. Binham's appeal was postponed until after the trial of the detectives in connection with the Parchment case. Both were aquitted.

Officers investigating Binham's allegations wanted to submit the original notes for tests, but they were missing - an event which helped lead to the disbandment of the squad. It was later discovered that further documents were missing, including notes of a statement given by Binham's father, who claimed his signature was forged. Two files held by the CPS in Birmingham also disappeared. Jeremy Gompertz QC, for the Crown, said the only original notes that could now be found related to an undisputed interview.

Quashing the conviction as 'unsafe and unsatisfactory', Lord Justice Stuart-Smith said irregularities 'leave the court with a sense of considerable unease'. At the very least, the non-disclosure of the two original witnesses' statements at the trial was 'a material irregularity'.

The Police Complaints Authority said after yesterday's hearing that it was still to be decided whether the officers should face disciplinary charges.

Binham has served three years for the theft offence, but is now serving eight years for an unconnected armed robbery offence.

Rioters who witnessed the murder of PC Keith Blakelock during the 1985 Broadwater Farm disturbances are being offered immunity from prosecution if they will give evidence about his killers. Commander Perry Nove of the Metropolitan Police said that unless fresh witnesses were prepared to 'stand up and be counted' it was unlikely that a case could be brought against any suspects.