Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) incompetence or collusion allows corrupt cops to walk free.
After five months of a trial costing ‘tens of millions of pounds’, eight police officers accused of perverting the course of justice have been able to simply walk away from Swansea Crown Court. They walked free not because a jury acquitted them – the jury didn’t get a chance to pass any verdict at all. They walked free because the CPS and police investigators made such serious and repeated failings in presenting the evidence that it was impossible for the trial to proceed.
This was one of the biggest and most serious cases ever tried in Wales. These police officers had ‘allegedly’colluded to imprison three men for a murder they knew they did not commit,making little effort to find the real killer. They fabricated evidence, and bullied witnesses into committing perjury. One witness recounted that police officers had told her they would
“nail those men and, if I didn’t do what they said, they would nail me as well”.
A forensic witness told of how detectives had ‘strengthened’ a witness account in order to implicate Abdullahi and Actie, two of the three men, known as the Cardiff 3, who were later sentenced to life in prison.
Given that this was such an important trial, it is, to put it mildly, ‘remarkable’ that the police and prosecution messed up the evidence in the case to the extent that they did. From the statement made by the trial judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, it is clear that the collapse of the case stemmed not from one mistake, but from a series of failings, omissions and errors in that made it impossible for the eight police officers to be fairly tried.
Crucial evidence for the cross examination of prosecution witnesses was not disclosed. Instructions made by the trial judge to deal with disclosure issues were not followed. Important records relating to contacts between the investigation and original defendants went initially undisclosed,and were then found to be incomplete. Prosecution promises that no ‘significant material’ went undisclosed ‘turned out to be wrong’. Mr Justice Sweeney then went on to say,
“What has been said this morning is necessarily only a short and incomplete summary of the troubling picture that has emerged in relation to the conduct of the disclosure process in this of all cases.”
In judicial terms this is about as damning as it gets. We should indeed be ‘troubled’ by prosecutors who ignore basic judicial procedures to such an extent that their behaviour undermines and collapses such an important and expensive trial. But we should be even more ‘troubled’ that these mistakes occurred in ‘this of all cases’, when it just happened to be police officers that were standing in the dock.
The eight ex-police officers have been named as, Michael Daniels, Peter Greenwood, Paul Jennings, Graham Mouncher, Thomas Page, Richard Powell, John Seaford and Paul Stephen. Through the misconduct of the CPS they have avoided long prison terms for extremely serious offences. Their actions have ruined many lives, not just those forced to endure a long prison term for an offence they did not commit, but also their families, and the witnesses the police threatened into perjury.
Many of those reading this story in the UK or Welsh national press will feel anger, shock, revulsion and disgust, but it seems unlikely that many will be surprised. The UK’s record for bringing police officers to account for their actions remains unacceptably bad.