Lawyers representing a group of men wrongly accused of the murder of a Cardiff woman are to take the attorney general and home secretary to court in a bid to win a judicial review of the case.
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Lynette White was stabbed more than 50 times in a frenzied attack on Valentine's Day 1988 in a squalid flat in Cardiff's deprived docklands area.
The attorney general and the home secretary refused to hold a public inquiry into the collapse of a corruption case against South Wales police officers who investigated the murder and now lawyers for those wrongly accused of Lynette White's killing will ask a high court judge to overturn that decision.
In 1990 Lynette's boyfriend Stephen Miller, Yusef Abdullahi and Tony Paris were jailed for life for the murder of Ms White, who worked as a prostitute in Cardiff, but they were freed two years later after their convictions were quashed by the court of appeal.
Two other men who had also been charged with murder - cousins John and Ronnie Actie - were acquitted by a jury, but had spent two years in prison awaiting trial.
The collection of cases which unravelled in Swansea is very disquieting. Lord Carlile QC
The quashing of the convictions of the trio - who became known as the Cardiff Three - prompted a reinvestigation of the Lynette White case by South Wales Police, and led to the conviction of the real killer, 15 years after the murder.
Advances in DNA technology led police, to one of Ms White's clients, Jeffrey Gafoor, who was arrested and later confessed to committing the murder alone.
South Wales Police, under the supervision of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, began investigating what had gone wrong with the original police investigation into Ms White's death, and how innocent men had ended up being charged with her murder.
In summer 2011, eight former officers from South Wales Police were accused of fabricating evidence and perverting the course of justice, leading to the wrongful conviction of three men for murder. That trial collapsed and all ten defendants were cleared.
Channel 4 News has learnt that ministers have rejected a formal request for a public inquiry into the prosecution's decision to throw in the towel in the trial of the eight police officers.
They claimed documents had been destroyed, but the files were later found at South Wales police headquarters.
That is still the focus of one inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The other has been set up by the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC.
Mr Starmer brought in the inspectorate, which now has a team of four lawyers going through 800,000 documents.
But that is not enough for the wrongly accused or convicted. Now Channel 4 News has learnt they are planning to take ministers to the high court to try to force them to establish a public inquiry.
Channel 4 News has learnt lawyers for the surviving three victims - John Actie, Tony Paris and Stephen Miller - are to seek a judicial review in the High Court, to try to force ministers to establish a public inquiry. They say the two inquiries set up are insufficient.
The demand for a public inquiry is supported by John Actie, 50, who was 26 when he was put on trial for Ms White's murder.
He was acquitted after spending two years in jail. Last year he gave evidence against the police officers who put him and four others in the dock, an experience he described as akin to his original prosecution.
When their corruption trial collapsed it was an outcome he had predicted.
But he added his call for a public inquiry to establish how it had happened. He told Channel 4 News: "We need closure, we need an inquiry, otherwise it's going to be ten years down the line again, more money spent our heads getting worse because there's nothing closed."
Out of reach
An estimated £30m was spent bringing police officers to trial. Now the officers are lodging a series of complaints about they way they have been treated.
The witnesses they allegedly bullied into giving false statements in the murder case were sent to prison. One of their lawyers is also calling for a wider inquiry.
Lord Carlile QC told Channel 4 News: "The collection of cases which unravelled in Swansea is very disquieting. Two inquiries have been announced and they will not be joined up. I think there's a very strong case for a single, joined-up inquiry, preferably led by a judge to look at the whole history of the Cardiff Three case."
John Actie is not hopeful. But then he never has been. Justice to him has always seemed just out of reach.
13 July 2011
26 January 2012