Police condemned for bullying suspect

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POLICE officers who investigated the murder of a Cardiff prostitute were yesterday condemned by Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, for 'bullying and hectoring' during a 'travesty of an interview' which led to the wrongful conviction of three men.

Giving judgment in the Court of Appeal, Lord Taylor, sitting with Mr Justice Popplewell and Mr Justice Laws, said the taped interviews would be sent to the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, the DPP and HM Inspector of Constabulary as an example 'of what we hope we shall never hear again in this court'.

He added: 'Short of physical violence, it is hard to conceive of a more hostile and intimidating approach by officers to a suspect.'

Last week Stephen Miller, 26, Tony Paris, 35, and Yusef Abdullahi, 30, were cleared of the murder of Lynette White.

They had been jailed for life at Swansea Crown Court in November 1990, after the longest murder trial in Britain. Two other defendants, John Actie and his cousin Ronnie, were acquitted. Ms White, 21, was murdered in her 'punters' room' in Butetown, Cardiff, on Valentine's Day, 1988. She had been stabbed more than 50 times, her left breast had been almost severed and her throat was cut through to the spine. None of the forensic evidence in the room pointed to the convicted men.

Lord Taylor said the failings in the case were due to human error rather than flaws in the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act. 'In our view, those responsible for police training and discipline must take all necessary steps to see that guidelines are followed.'

But this was immediately criticised by the men's solicitors. David Webster, for Mr Paris, said: 'The Act failed to provide any safeguards for these men. It will only operate if the rules are rigidly enforced and conscientiously carried out by police officers.'

Although Mr Miller denied the murder more than 300 times, he confessed after five days and 19 interviews. Lord Taylor said two teams of officers employed different methods to make him 'crack'.

Robert Lawrence, Chief Constable of South Wales, yesterday questioned when 'rigorous and searching' interviews by police become what the Court of Appeal ruled as oppressive. He said the case highlighted problems facing officers holding interviews under the 1984 Act and police needed to know the precise scope of the judgment.

Law report, page 28