CPS and Police Responsible For Collapse Of Trial - Victims Renew Call For Public Inquiry
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Yesterday, the report by HM Chief Inspector of the CPS is finally published regarding the collapse of the case of R v Mouncher and others.
The report comes over 18 months after the collapse of the trial of police officers on charges of perverting the course of justice and perjury at Cardiff Crown Court in December 2011. Charges were dropped against further police officers awaiting a second trial.
The report finds significant failures in the disclosure process at all levels by experienced police officers, CPS lawyers and counsel, including the failure in management and supervision, dysfunctional decision making and a failure in communication and joint working between them.
Also published today is the IPCC report into a narrow aspect of the police handling of disclosure, which also reveals failings but lacks critical analysis and finds no police misconduct.
The Home Secretary will now have to re-decide by 16 September 2013 whether to hold a public inquiry into this case, taking into account today's reports and the representations of those who suffered at the hands of the police.
On 1 December 2011, Mr Justice Sweeny ruled that a fair trial was not possible of eight former police officers and two civilians arising from the wrongful prosecution of five individuals for the murder of Lynette White in 1988.
The reasons given by the judge for halting the trial were failures in disclosure by the prosecution team, which included four files that were found to be missing during the trial but later found after the trial had collapsed in the office of the senior investigating officer, DCS Coutts. However, the four missing files were only 'the straw that broke the camel's back' as far as disclosure failures were concerned. The estimated cost of the collapse of the trial was about £30 million.
The failure to bring police officers to justice was another devastating blow to the three surviving miscarriage of justice victims who were framed by the police for the murder of Lynette White in the 1988. They all had to painfully re-live their experiences when giving evidence before the trial collapsed.
Since December 2011, the victims have sought a public inquiry to investigate the failings that led to the collapse of the trial, and in March 2012 they issued a judicial review claim against the decision of the Home Secretary preferring to await the results of parallel investigations conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the Crown Prosecution Service (HMCPSI) rather than set up a public inquiry. The reports of those investigations have finally been published today.
Mismanagement of high profile case - victims demand more answers and accountability
It was always clear that the large scale prosecution of police officers and civilians was going to be a complex and intricate process given the long history of investigations under scrutiny since 1988, including a vast amount of material arising from four prior criminal trials and associated investigations.
The victims maintained that these disjointed investigations would not be adequate to provide public accountability for what went wrong, and they have been proved right. There remain significant issues of public importance that have yet to be fully investigated, such as:
a) Why, when, by whom and in what circumstances the four missing files came to be stored in DCS Coutts' office; whether there was any instruction to shred them, as was alleged;
b) Disputes of fact as to what inquiries were made during the trial about the four missing files, whether the inquiries and searches were adequate, whether the court was misled about the outcome of the inquiries;
c) Other failings in police disclosure other than the four missing files (the IPCC investigation was
limited to these files and not wider police disclosure failings)
d) Failures in communication and relations between the CPS, counsel and police
e) Identification of individuals responsible for any failings, consideration of professional conduct issues and lessons learned (the IPCC report is particularly inadequate in this respect).
The victims have pressed the Home Secretary to now make the decision to hold a public inquiry, which will include measures to ensure public scrutiny and their own participation.
Tony Paris said: "In December 2011 I was robbed of the chance to see justice done to the police officers who stood accused of fitting me up for murder. I was let down by the system all over again and I had no confidence that these inquiries, which I was shut out of, would give me the answers that I deserved. I have been proved right. Only a public inquiry stands the chance of getting to the truth and of bringing those that have failed me to account"
John Actie said: "It seems that it is impossible for people like me to get true justice against the police where they
have seriously abused their power and devastated peoples' lives. These investigation reports do not get to the bottom of all that went wrong."
Their solicitor Kate Maynard said: "The investigations indicate a disturbing degree of complacency and incompetence on the handling of disclosure by the prosecution team. This is hard to understand in a trial of such importance and expense, following an investigation that had dragged on for years. However, the investigation reports do not provide the accountability and answers that the victims and public deserve, particularly the report of the IPCC which is too narrow and lacks any critical analysis. It is clear that further inquiry with judicial or other independent oversight is required for my clients and the public to have any confidence in the findings."
Enquiries/further information please contact:
Kate Maynard, Partner, phone: 0044 (0)7812 974613
Hickman & Rose solicitors Website:
Since 1990, all five men had to fight for justice over the case that was fabricated against them.' It has had a devastating effect on their lives, and on those of their families. Their prolonged and difficult struggle to establish the truth finally resulted in charges being brought against police officers and civilians for fabricating evidence and committing perjury. That trial began in front of Mr Justice Sweeney in July 2011. It should at last have established who was responsible for the miscarriage of justice which had occurred, but it was halted due to failures in disclosure by the prosecution.
In 1990, Tony Paris, Steven Miller and Yusef Abdullahi (now deceased) were framed by police for the high profile murder of Lynette White in Cardiff. They were convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. John Actie and his cousin Ronnie Actie (now deceased) were also tried but acquitted after spending almost two years in prison.
Two years later, in 1992 the Court of Appeal overturned the convictions and set the men free. At the time the police said they were not looking for anyone else. However, in 2003, following a cold case review which utilised sensitive new DNA tests, Jeffrey Gafoor was identified as the killer of Lynette White. Gafoor pleaded guilty to the murder and is himself now serving a sentence of life imprisonment.
I Stephen Miller is represented by Matthew Gold & Co. From 2002 this firm has acted for the other four, Tony Paris, John Actie, Ronnie Actie (who died in September 2007) and Yusuf Abdullahi (who died in January 2011).