Miscarriages of JusticeUK

No Justice for the Cardiff Three – Reason, Police Did Not Act in Bad Faith!

It is nearly 25 years since the mutilated body of Lynette White was found in her flat in James Street, in the Butetown district of Cardiff. Stephen Miller, Yusef Abdullahi and Anthony Paris were convicted of her murder in 1090, but the convictions were quashed in 1992. Her murder led to one of the greatest judicial scandals of the last half century and the largest ever trial, R v Mouncher and ors, 13 police officers and two civilians faced charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury, not surprisingly the case against those charged collapsed, after a number of CPS documents disappeared.

The Cardiff Three’ have waited since 1990 for a just and final conclusion to the case.

Well today, Tuesday 18th Juy 2017, it did reach its final conclusion and it is not in the slightest bit Just!

Richard Horwell QC was appointed to investigate the collapse of the trial against the police officers, today he published the ‘Mouncher_Report’, 327 pages and the emphasis, “bad faith played no part in the errors of either the police officers or the prosecution lawyers”. 23 times he repeats this ‘bad faith’

Hickman and Rose Solicitors who defended Tony Paris and Yusuf Abdullahi, commenting on the report said:

“This damning report finally lays bare the full extent of the shocking failures that led to the collapse of one of the most significant police misconduct trials ever undertaken.

The failure of the CPS and the police to comply with disclosure requirements led to the travesty that, of the dozens of police officers and civilians investigated for offences ranging from false imprisonment to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury, only the bullied and vulnerable victims were ever held fully accountable and punished.

The Report confirms that, if handled properly by a suitable expert team, the case was capable of going to the jury. However, the shocking revelation from today’s report is that the prosecution of the police officers in the case of R v Mouncher and others was doomed from the start due to the failure to appoint a sufficient number of appropriately experienced and trained senior prosecutors and police disclosure officers.  This was a monumental error, and a false economy that lead to the collapse of a £30 million-pound prosecution. Chillingly, Chief Inspector Coutts, who led the investigation, recognised that “the only way this case will fail is through disclosure”. And yet it was still allowed to happen.

Today’s Report finds no evidence of wickedness or bad faith, but a lack of competence across the board. This conclusion is difficult for the victims to accept, but plausible in the wider context. The reality is that chronic errors in disclosure right across the criminal justice system is undermining prosecutions to the detriment of all. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary reported today that 22% of evidence schedules are “wholly inadequate”. Hopefully this exposure of very high-profile failure will reinvigorate calls for real reform.”

Kate Maynard, Hickman & Rose

Mouncher Report Executive Summary - Richard Horwell QC

Lynette White was just 20 years of age when in 1988 she was brutally murdered in a flat in Cardiff. Stephen Miller, John and Ronald Actie, Yusef Abdullahi and Anthony Paris, who later became known as the “Cardiff Five”, were prosecuted for her murder and in 1990 three of them were convicted: Stephen Miller, Yusef Abdullahi and Anthony Paris. Those convictions represent one of the worst miscarriages of justice in our criminal justice system. The case against them comprised accounts from eyewitnesses; confessions to civilians; and a single recorded confession by Stephen Miller to police officers. Following the convictions, the main eyewitnesses withdrew their evidence as did most of the civilians to whom confessions were alleged to have been made. The Court of Appeal quashed the three convictions in 1992 because Miller’s confession to police officers had been obtained by oppression involving bullying, hostility and intimidation at a level that had horrified the three Court of Appeal judges.

What is so perplexing about the prosecution of the Cardiff Five is that there was no scientific evidence against them when, if guilty, there should have been: the scientific evidence which was then available in fact tended to suggest that another and unidentified man had murdered Lynette White. Furthermore, the motive suggested for their killing her did not stand up to scrutiny.
Due to advances in DNA technology, in 2003 it was discovered from blood found at the scene that the murderer was Jeffrey Gafoor. Gafoor confessed to murdering Lynette White on his arrest and in that same year he pleaded guilty to her murder. Gafoor’s explanation as to what happened, as disclosed in his plea in mitigation before sentence, was that he had murdered Lynette White on his own. He apologised to the Cardiff Five for what had happened to them and made it clear that he did not know them and had no connection to them.

The focus then shifted to the original murder trial. How could five men be prosecuted for murder when, as later events were to reveal, they had nothing whatsoever to do with either the murder or the murderer? How could eye witness have put them at the scene when they had not been there?

An investigation commenced into how and why civilian witnesses had lied and, in particular, into the police officers who had taken their witness statements. Eventually, in 2009, 13 police officers and two civilians were charged with offences of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury. The case against the police officers was that they had “moulded, manipulated, influenced and fabricated” the evidence against the five innocent men. There were to be two trials, the first of which commenced in July 2011 at Swansea Crown Court against eight of the police officers and the two civilians.

The trial was beset by problems especially those concerning prosecution disclosure. On 28 November 2011, the trial judge ordered the prosecution to identify and produce a particular class of registered documents which would enable the court and the defence to test the prosecution’s ability to conduct its disclosure exercise in accordance with law. Documents were identified as falling within that class but could not be found. It was then believed that the documents, or some of them, had been destroyed on the instruction of the Senior Investigating Officer and that belief appeared to be confirmed by a note of a conversation between two police officers in 2010. That note had been found overnight and was produced at court the following morning. The prosecution then acted on the basis that the documents had been destroyed on the order of the Senior Investigating Officer and as a consequence, the prosecution decided that it could no longer have confidence in the trial and criminal process. Accordingly, on 1 December 2011 the prosecution offered no further evidence and the police officers in that and the following case were acquitted. 

Seven weeks later on 17 January 2012, the “destroyed” documents were found at the police headquarters, albeit not in the Major Incident Room where they should have been located; they were found by the Senior Investigating Officer in his office. Concerns of “establishment cover up” and “conspiracy” naturally followed. Did the investigators deliberately sabotage the trial to ensure that their accused colleagues would avoid conviction and the inevitable sentences of imprisonment that would follow? 

This investigation, which commenced in March 2015, was directed at discovering what had caused the trial to collapse and at investigating many related issues, principally involving the conduct of police officers and prosecution lawyers. This investigation follows a number of previous inquiries and a detailed judgment in connected civil proceedings. 

On the evidence, it is clear that very few emerge with credit: too many aspects of the investigation and prosecution were poorly managed. But my principal finding, from which much flows, is that bad faith played no part in the errors of either the police officers or the prosecution lawyers. It is human failings that brought about the collapse of the trial not wickedness. 

The Senior Investigating Officer did not order the destruction of any material and as is already obvious, the documents believed to have been destroyed were not destroyed. 

Because of the note of the 2010 conversation, it has always seemed likely that a document was destroyed but one has never been identified. As a result of this investigation, I have found that a document was destroyed and that it was a summary or schedule of material held by the South Wales Police Professional Standards Department (PSD); it is referred to as the “Jones Briefing Paper”. The reason why I have excluded bad faith in its destruction is set out in detail in the report but it is important to understand that the Jones Briefing Paper was not an original document. A digital version, at least, of the document was always going to be available for inspection or use at PSD and there was nothing to be gained by the destruction of one of a number of hardcopy versions of it. The document was not considered as undermining the prosecution case and it in fact contained complaints from some of the police officers awaiting trial. Indeed, a prosecution lawyer had considered the document and had advised that it was then irrelevant to the investigation. The document was destroyed because originating from PSD it was rightly regarded as sensitive and there was no written policy as to how such documents should be managed. The lack of a clear policy led to a misunderstanding as to how the Jones Briefing Paper should be treated. 

That is a world away from a corrupt police officer destroying an original document that undermined the prosecution case. 
Notwithstanding the fact that the document was determined as being “irrelevant”, it should nonetheless have been registered and available for future inspection. It had not been registered and obviously was not available, at least in the Major Incident Room, for future inspection. Despite a number of searches, the 22-page document has never been found and it is more likely than not that it was destroyed. 

The evidence reveals a rather chaotic trail of poor management by police officers and the prosecution lawyers, particularly the CPS. There were too many disclosure failings which by 28 November 2011 had brought the prosecution case to a “knife’s edge”. As for the “missing” document and other related or similar documents, there was deep-set confusion as to what had 
happened and as to what guidance or instructions, if any, had been given. At times, it seems that if something could go wrong it would. 

Although the main reason given for stopping the trial was erroneous, the evidence establishes that the prosecution was then in much worse shape than had ever been anticipated and that if the full facts had been known, there is no doubt that by the vulnerable stage the trial had then reached, it would still have collapsed. 

My principal findings are set out at paragraph 24.10 of the report. 

The three surviving members of the Cardiff Five have always suspected that the trial collapsed due to yet further police corruption. Such suspicion is entirely understandable but has not been supported by the evidence. 

The three surviving members are determined that no one else should suffer in the way they have, both from the original murder investigation and from the collapse of the trial in 2011. This investigation has been directed at the latter trial and at paragraph 24.11 of the report, I have made 17 recommendations. 

Disclosure problems have blighted our criminal justice system for too long and although disclosure guidelines, manuals and policy documents are necessary, it is the mindset and experience of those who do disclosure work that is paramount. 

No one can ever say that there will not be disclosure errors in the future, but if these recommendations are implemented and if they and the changes already introduced are followed in both letter and spirit, the prospects of disclosure failings will be significantly reduced. 

Richard Horwell QC

Download the full report: http://bit.ly/2vf6QG