Two cleared over 'tainted police evidence': Convictions quashed after Court of Appeal told officers could not be relied on. Terry Kirby reports

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The Independent Online
TWO MEN had their convictions quashed yesterday after the Court of Appeal was told that police officers who gave evidence against them could no longer be relied upon as truthful witnesses.

The court was told that Winston Thompson and Raymond Jones had alleged at their trials that the officers - investigated in a major drugs-related corruption inquiry at Stoke Newington police station in north-east London - had planted evidence on them.

Kenneth Aylett, for the Crown, said the appeals would not be defended because in both cases the officers - who were not named - could no longer be relied upon; their credibility had been undermined as a result of other cases where convictions had been quashed. In the case of Mr Jones, there was no other evidence against him while in the case of Mr Thompson, the other evidence was insufficient to sustain the conviction.

Quashing the convictions, Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, said the court 'deeply regretted' that the men had been convicted on the basis of 'tainted evidence from a source which ought to be reliable and on which the courts should have confidence'.

A total of 10 people have had their convictions quashed in the Court of Appeal as a result of allegations against police officers involved in the inquiry known as Operation Jackpot, said to be one of the biggest conducted into the Metropolitan Police.

The court was told yesterday that Mr Jones had been convicted in March 1992 of handling stolen goods and sentenced to three months in prison and 18 months for breaking a suspended sentence. The two officers claimed that they had discovered two stolen cheque books and a credit card hidden in a shoe when they stopped him in the street in north London.

Mr Jones claimed in court that the articles were planted on him because he had refused to become a police informer.

Mr Thompson was convicted in December 1991 of intent to supply the drug crack and sentenced to 30 months in prison, together with three months for breach of a suspended sentence. The two officers in this case - only one of whom whose credibility was in doubt - claimed that Mr Thompson had been seen trying to sell drugs on a street and that when he was stopped and searched, he had a small amount of crack on him; Mr Thompson claimed the drugs had been planted.

Yesterday two further appeals, involving Gary Winship, who is serving an 11-year sentence for armed robbery and Leroy Lewis, who is serving six years for intent to supply crack, were adjourned. Mr Aylett said both were being contested on the basis that although there were doubts about the reliability of the police officers who had been involved, there was substantial additional evidence.

Operation Jackpot is believed to have involved about 25 separate cases of complaints against the police - mostly of planting evidence and perversion of justice - in which more than 40 officers are named. A small number are named several times.

Only one officer, former detective constable Roy Lewandowski, was named in court yesterday; he has been convicted of theft offences and has served a sentence of 18 months. A number of officers have been transferred; three have been suspended. The inquiry is not expected to be completed until the spring, when the Crown Prosecution Service will decide whether any officers should face charges.

It began early in 1991 when a local drugs dealer told police that she had paid more than pounds 1,000 a week to a police officer on whose behalf she had been selling crack. That officer was already under investigation over other matters.

Of the eight previously successful appeals, six have involved drugs. Two other men had their manslaughter convictions quashed after it was claimed that DC Lewandowski planted on them evidence he had stolen from the house of a dead man. About 17 more appeals are pending. Many civil actions have also been lodged and a number of cases have collapsed at trial because of allegations against Jackpot-investigated officers.