26 Feb 2014

Fresh inquiry for South Wales Police over murder case

South Wales Police is facing another inquiry into the conduct of former detectives during a murder inquiry in the nineties.

The case of Alan Charlton is being referred to the Court of Appeal on suspicion that witnesses were bullied, forced to lie and that certain officers breached guidelines in the treatment and questioning of suspects.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission says there are similarities with methods used by the same detectives involved in two other major murder investigations which resulted in miscarriages of justice – the Lynette White case and the Cardiff Three, and another, the Phillip Saunders case, which became known as the Cardiff Newsagent Three.

The prosecution of thirteen former officers on conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in the 1988 Lynette White case was abandoned over issues surrounding disclosure and missing files.

Charlton was jailed for life in 1991 for the murder of 15-year-old Karen Price who disappeared eight years earlier.

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Her body was found by workmen digging up a back garden of a house in the riverside area of Cardiff.

He has always proclaimed his innocence, and the decision to refer his case back to the Court of Appeal follows a 4-year inquiry by the CCRC, which today said there is a real possibility judges will quash the conviction and set him free.

It has submitted a 156-page statement to the court which Channel 4 News understands identifies 28 police officers involved in the case. It raises issues including:

* Breaches by officers in the case of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) and of PACE Code of Practice C (regarding the detention, treatment and questioning of persons by police officers)

* The credibility of a number of prosecution witnesses

* Concerns about oppressive handling by the police of key witnesses which arguably means that the trial amounted to an abuse of process

In an unusual move, the CCRC has also informed the Independent Police Complaints Commission and her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary of its concerns.

The IPCC told Channel 4 News: “This clearly raises serious issues for public confidence in the integrity of the force at that time.”

It has asked for the results of any review carried out by South Wales Police.

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