Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wonderful! British police officers to be charged over fraudulent conviction case

Fifteen people, including nine retired and three serving police officers, are to be charged with perverting the course of justice and perjury in connection with the murder of a young woman more than 20 years ago. Lynette White, 20, a prostitute, was found stabbed to death in a flat in Cardiff on Valentine's Day, 1988. Three men were sentenced to life for her murder in 1990 but their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1992.

The latest prosecution is believed to involve the biggest number of current and former members of the police force to be summonsed together. A member of police staff and two civilians have also been summonsed.

In 2003, after new DNA evidence was uncovered, Jeffrey Gafoor pleaded guilty at Cardiff Crown Court to murdering Ms White. He said that he committed the murder alone. Then, in December last year, three people who were witnesses in the original murder trial were sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment for perjury. Their evidence had helped to convict the three innocent men, Stephen Miller, Tony Paris and Yusuf Abdullahi, who became known as the Cardiff Three. Two others, the cousins Ronald and John Actie, were acquitted.

The flawed conviction of the Cardiff Three revealed police techniques described by then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor, as "almost passing belief". Police had used oppressive and bullying techniques in interviews with the suspects. "It is hard to conceive of a more hostile or intimidating approach by officers to a suspect," Lord Taylor said.

The re-investigation, which was supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, has led to the CPS Special Crime Division announcing the new prosecutions. The former and current officers as well as the member of police staff are to be prosecuted for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The two civilians are to be prosecuted for two counts of perjury in relation to the evidence they gave at the murder trials. They are all due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court next month. The maximum sentence for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice is life imprisoment; the maximum for perjury is seven years.

In 2008 the CPS secured perjury convictions against Mark Grommek, Angela Psaila and Leanne Vilday, civilian witnesses at the original trial. Following these convictions, lawyers reviewed the evidence against police officers suspected of moulding, manipulating and fabricating evidence.

Tom Davies, IPCC Commissioner for Wales, said: “It is important for South Wales Police and the people they serve that this miscarriage of justice was properly dealt with. “In all of this we must not forget that Lynette White died at the hands of Jeffrey Gafoor and my thoughts are with her family and friends. "It is vitally important for public confidence in the police service and the complaints process that the full story of this re-investigation is told in public. The trial of these 15 people will enable that to happen. “The IPCC decided to supervise this investigation over three years ago and I have gone on record numerous times to praise the thoroughness and professionalism of the investigation team. "This has been a long and complex investigation and we and the police have worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service to get to [yesterday's] announcement. "I am satisfied that this has been thoroughly investigated and the matter has now passed to the judicial process. It would be inappropriate to comment further."

In a statement released through their lawyer, Mr Paris, Mr Abdullahi, John Actie and the family of his deceased cousin Ronnie said they never regained the lives they had before they were allegedly “fitted up”. “Our lives have been utterly destroyed by being branded brutal murderers,” they said.

Colette Paul, Assistant Chief Constable of South Wales Police, said: “At the forefront of our thoughts today is Lynette White, who was so brutally murdered on 14th February 1988. “These developments will once again bring back painful memories for her family and friends and all who knew her. “The serving of summonses marks another crucial phase in this investigative and prosecution process.”

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

No comments: