9 Feb 2015

Inquiry set up into collapse of police corruption trial

Home Secretary Theresa May is to order an inquiry into the collapse of the country’s biggest ever police corruption trial which fell apart at an estimated cost of £30m in 2011.

Mrs May is to appoint a QC to look into why the prosecution abandoned the case against a dozen former South Wales police officers charged with perverting the course of justice in the Lynette White murder investigation 27 years ago.

Documents exclusively obtained by Channel 4 News reveal the investigation will cover all questions around resources, performance and conduct of both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The home secretary had earlier resisted calls from those wrongly convicted to hold a public inquiry, but has now accepted the need for an investigation which will begin next month and is expected to report in the summer.

‘Cardiff five’ case

The Lynette White case represents one of the UK’s longest running miscarriages of justice cases.

She was a 20 year old prostitute butchered to death in a Cardiff bedsit in 1988. The men wrongly accused became known as the Cardiff Five. Three of them – Stephen Miller, Yusef Abdullahi and Tony Paris – were convicted, but their convictions were quashed in 1991.

It was not until 1998 that DNA nailed the true killer, Jeffrey Gafoor. The men wrongly accused have fought for justice ever since.

For seven years a small team of detectives, under the supervision of the IPCC, investigated the methods and conduct of the original murder squad.

Three witnesses were found to have lied under oath at the murder trial. They claimed during the case that they were bullied and threatened into doing so by South Wales police officers. Each witness was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Police on trial

In 2011, eight of a dozen former detectives accused of perjury and perverting the course of justice went on trial, but proceedings never went the full course.

Problems around disclosure and files going missing – believed shredded – led to the abandonment of the trial. However those files were later to turn up intact, and a further 227 files were also discovered in the police investigation headquarters.

Two inquiries, one by the IPCC and the other by the Crown Prosecution Service, never really got the bottom of all the circumstances which led to the collapse of the trial and who was responsible.

It left those who had been wrongly convicted of Lynette White’s murder profoundly disillusioned. They challenged the home secretary’s refusal to hold a public inquiry.

Now she has ordered an investigation which will have access to all the files and all those involved.