Eight former police officers and two civilians accused in 'Cardiff Three' case could not receive fair hearing, judge rules
The biggest trial of police officers in British legal history has collapsed after a judge ruled they could not receive a fair hearing.
Eight former police officers and two civilians had been accused of fabricating evidence leading to the wrongful imprisonment of the "Cardiff Three", who were jailed for the murder of Lynette White, who had worked as a prostitute in the docks area.
Mr Justice Sweeney discharged the jury at Swansea crown court and formally recorded not guilty verdicts.
He told the jury: "When a trial has become irredeemably unfair it must stop." Sweeney said there had been a "number of problems in relation to the conduct of the prosecution" and its "duty of disclosure".
The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, had supported the decision and backed a full review into the circumstances leading up to the collapse, the court was told.
The Crown Prosecution Service said Starmer was "extremely concerned" about the collapse of proceedings.
The investigation into the former police officers and trial, which began in July, has cost millions of pounds.
White was stabbed more than 50 times at the flat where she worked in 1988. Stephen Miller, Yusef Abdullahi and Tony Paris were convicted of her murder in 1990. Their convictions were quashed two years later and they were released. In 2003 Jeffrey Gafoor, a client of White's, admitted murdering her and is serving life.
During this year's trial the eight former officers were accused of "acting corruptly together" to make a case against the Cardiff Three. The prosecution claimed the accusations were "largely the product of the imagination and then the theories and beliefs of police officers".
During the trial Gafoor was brought from prison to confirm that he had acted alone when he killed White. Stephen Miller, White's boyfriend, told of the nightmare he had endured after being accused of the murder.
The former police officers, Graham Mouncher, Richard Powell, Thomas Page, Michael Daniels, Paul Jennings, Paul Stephen, Peter Greenwood and John Seaford, had all denied conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
Mouncher also denied two charges of lying while on oath during the trials of the five men. Civilians Violet Perriam and Ian Massey, were each cleared of two charges of perjury. They had been accused of telling "clear and deliberate lies".
Tony Paris, one of the Cardiff Three, said a lot of people would feel let down by the collapse of the trial.
Paris, who gave evidence during the prosecution, said: "It's a lot of effort by a lot of people that's gone into this case. A lot of people will feel let down. I don't know what to feel, I wasn't expecting this.
"I've got to let the authorities do what they've got to do if they are going to do anything. I gave evidence and it wasn't good. It was rough."
Paris, who was speaking on ITV Wales Tonight, said he was glad at least that the man who killed White was behind bars.
"As far as I'm concerned they've got the right person. I've had my apology from South Wales police. I have to leave it there and get on with my life."
John Actie, who was one of the five suspects but was acquitted of murder, said it was "disappointing" for everyone affected by the aftermath of the murder.
Speaking outside the court, Page's barrister, Gregory Bull QC, said: "We are delighted that, after six-and-a-half years of being on police bail, the innocence of Mr Page has been firmly established.
"We always contended there was insufficient evidence against him. After 31 years as a police officer who received 26 commendations, he felt bitterly let down by the manner of his arrest and the process that he has been put through."
He said the trial had collapsed because the prosecution failed to disclose certain evidence.
Powell said in a statement: "The last six and a half years have been harrowing for both myself and my family. I would now like to get back to a normal life."
Bull said the case had probably cost "tens of millions", adding: "I would call for an inquiry into the way this investigating team has conducted itself."
Page himself said: "I'm just relieved that it's all over. This would have been my seventh Christmas on bail and we've just had stalling tactics from the prosecution. And, in fact, we proved, or my team proved, that any 'evidence' against me was completely dismantled and taken apart.
"I would like an investigation into the way this investigation was conducted. The investigation should be re-investigated by a team from outside south Wales."
Anthony Barnfather, of law firm Pannone, which represented Mouncher, said: "It is particularly worrying that this is yet another large and expensive trial where the prosecution failed in its duty to disclose relevant material to the defence.
"Mr Mouncher has been subject to years of unimaginable pressure; however, he can finally put this behind him.
"He has always maintained the integrity of the original investigation and leaves the court with his professional reputation intact and his character unblemished."
The collapse is also embarrassing for the IPCC, which worked closely with South Wales police on the inquiry.
IPCC commissioner for Wales Tom Davies said: "I am disappointed that the trial has been stopped before all of the issues relating to this investigation could be thoroughly aired and tested before a jury."
The judge also ruled that a second trial of four other defendants linked to the same case, which was due to take place next year, would not now go ahead.
Satish Saker, page 46