South East Wales

Lynette White police corruption acquittal: Retrial very unlikely, says QC

A legal expert says the discovery of files from a case where eight ex-police officers were acquitted of fabrication is very unlikely to lead to a retrial.

Winston Roddick QC spoke after it emerged that files which were thought to have been destroyed had been found.

The officers were involved in the original investigation of the 1988 Cardiff murder of Lynette White.

Ex-Home Office minister Alun Michael said it did not appear the documents were of central evidence.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Roddick had indicated that a retrial could be a possibility if the files produced "compelling" evidence that could persuade a jury to convict, and if it was in the public interest.

Case collapsed

But later Mr Roddick said a retrial was "most unlikely" as he understood the evidence favoured the defence, rather than the prosecution.

The case collapsed against the former officers in December when it was feared the documents had been shredded and a judge at Swansea Crown Court ruled that they could not get a fair trial because evidence was believed lost.

Mr Roddick said the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, must be satisfied that the case is also in the public interest before he would go to the Court of Appeal.

He said there were "strict criteria" on the bringing of fresh proceedings to quash an acquittal.

"There has to be cogent evidence capable of belief by the jury proving the guilt of the defendant.

"My understanding is the evidence which has been discovered... favoured not the prosecution, but favoured the defence and therefore it doesn't satisfy the criteria."

Mr Michael, the MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, in whose constituency the murder happened, said the issue could not go any further until the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) conducted an investigation and revealed its conclusions.

Image caption Lynette White was murdered in a flat in Cardiff's docklands in February 1988

Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate will review the case, which cost up to an estimated £30m.

Meanwhile, a solicitor representing one of the men wrongly convicted of murdering Ms White has called for an independent inquiry into the acquittal of the eight former police officers last month.

Matthew Gold, who represented Stephen Miller, said: "There should be an independent inquiry under the Inquiries Act carried out by a judge, and this was made much stronger by yesterday's developments.

"Both the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) and IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission), who've been involved in the prosecution throughout, are far too close to carry out an independent inquiry."

It had been alleged that the former South Wales Police officers had manufactured the case against five men after the murder at a flat in Cardiff's docklands. Three of the men were jailed for life, before being released on appeal.

The retired officers all pleaded not guilty to the charge and were cleared after the Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence against the defendants, halting the five-month trial.

It had appeared that files relating to complaints by an original defendant had been destroyed, which would have undermined the defence's confidence in the disclosure process.

Security guard

But now it has been revealed that the information has been found, according to the IPCC, which is conducting its own inquiry after being called in by South Wales Police.

It said the documents were still in the possession of South Wales Police and, as part of its inquiry, it needs to establish what happened to them.

Tony Paris, Yusef Abdullahi and Stephen Miller - who became known as the Cardiff Three - were wrongly jailed for life in 1990 for the murder of Miss White.

They were freed in 1992 after their convictions were quashed.

The case was reopened in September 2000 when new evidence was brought to light. Advances in DNA led to the arrest of security guard Jeffrey Gafoor who in July 2003 was jailed for life for the murder.

In 2004 the IPCC began an inquiry to establish what went wrong with the original investigation into the murder.

A year later former police officers were arrested and questioned on suspicion of false imprisonment, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and misconduct in public office.

Former officers Graham Mouncher, Thomas Page, Richard Powell, John Seaford, Michael Daniels, Peter Greenwood, Paul Jennings, Paul Stephen have now all been acquitted.

Civilians Violet Perriam and Ian Massey also denied two counts of perjury and were also cleared.

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