‘Human error’ by prosecution led to collapse of police corruption trial

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Jul 19, 2017
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The trial of former police officers over the jailing of three innocent men was halted over fears that documents later found in storage had been lost

Clara Molden/PA

The UK’s biggest police corruption trial collapsed because of “human errors by the police and Crown Prosecution Service rather than a deliberate attempt to cover up any crime”, an official review has concluded.

More than £30 million of taxpayer funding was spent before the pug was pulled on an investigation into whether eight former South Wales Police officers perverted the course of justice over the 1988 murder of Lynette White, a Cardiff prostitute. Three innocent men were jailed for the murder before their convictions were quashed and the real killer was caught more than a decade later.

The 2011 trial of the former police officers was halted over fears that documents had been lost and destroyed. They were eventually found in a storage unit, but by that time legal proceedings had finished.

A major review into the collapse of the trial was announced more than two years ago and conducted by Richard Horwell, QC, of Three Raymond Buildings in Gray’s Inn,  who described the convictions of the three innocent men as “one of the worst miscarriages of justice in our criminal justice system”.

His report, released yesterday concluded: “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 t is human failings that brought about the collapse of the trial, not wickedness.”

Yesterday an inspectors’ report found widespread “corrosive” failures over disclosure of evidence occurring across the criminal justice system, risking miscarriages of justice. Police were routinely failing to comply with the requirements to list all undisclosed evidence in sufficient detail to enable prosecutors to decide if it should be disclosed to the defence, the inspectors for the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) said in their joint report.

Kate Maynard, a partner at the London law firm Hickman & Rose, which represented four of the five originally accused of the murder, said the 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”.

She said: “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.”

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