Britain’s fledgling national police force has admitted that it acted unlawfully when its officials helped police in Thailand in a hunt for the killers of two murdered backpackers.
David Miller and Hannah Witheridge were killed on the island of Koh Tao in 2015. The High Court was told earlier this week that telephone metadata provided by the National Crime Agency (NCA) was presented at trial to bolster a prosecution case marred by widespread allegations of corruption, incompetence and fabricated evidence.
It was also alleged that the agency secretly shared other data with the prosecution. According to legal representatives for the defendants, this information pointed to other suspects and would have supported the defence case, but was never disclosed to the defence team.
In December 2015, the Burmese bar workers Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo were convicted of murder by a Thai court and sentenced to death.
They are trying to appeal and their case is likely to be boosted by the English High Court ruling that the NCA behaved unlawfully during the investigation in 2014.
“This one-sided provision of assistance in a death penalty case goes against the policy set out in the overseas security and justice assistance guidance, which requires government agencies to seek approval at the highest ministerial level in cases where assistance given to another country could result in human rights abuses or a death sentence,” the campaigning group Reprieve said.
Maya Foa, the group’s director, said: “UK co-operation with foreign police and security forces should be open and transparent. Government agencies shouldn’t have to be dragged through the courts for the public to know what is being done with their money.”
The NCA, which was launched in 2013, has agreed to pay the convicted men's £15,000 legal bills and admitted that it had acted unlawfully in providing information on five occasions.