South Wales Police still has a case to answer. And it is a horrific one at that. In 1988 a local Prostitute Lynette White was murdered in Cardiff. The police arrested three innocent men who were subsequently convicted of her murder with the help of false evidence and wrong testimonies by witnesses. The three men always maintained their innocence and were freed on appeal two years later.
DNA evidence led the police to the real murderer about 20 years later. The police who originally investigated the crime in 1988 recently found themselves in the dock for a shocking miscarriage of justice that they had probably contributed to by failing to meet professional standards and procedures, by allegedly falsifying testimonies and evidence.
The Crown Prosecution Service however had to drop the case last year against these police officers because crucial evidence against them had ‘disappeared’. The CPS admitted that the evidence had been destroyed. The judge had no choice but to instruct the jury to acquit the police officers.
Now, only two months later, during an investigation of the Independent Police Commission, those same documents, thought to have been shredded, have re-surfaced mysteriously. Since all police officers have been acquitted, it will be difficult to bring the same case against them again. In other words, they are off the hook.
The Observer wrote in its editorial on Sunday that South Wales police has a record of ‘shockingly high numbers of miscarriages of justice on its patch’, including high profile wrongful convictions over the last 20 years.
Over the years, South Wales police have often failed to serve its communities well. Many commentators believe the force had a striking number of corrupt and incompetent officers in its ranks which led to failed prosecutions or wrongful convictions of innocent people. This has to change. The disappearance of the evidence which led to the collapse of the trial against the police officers investigating the Lynette White case needs explaining. How could the files ‘temporarily’ disappear? Why did the CPS think the evidence was shredded? What does South Wales Police and the CPS know about the ‘temporary disappearance’ of vital evidence in this case which helped the police officers to walk away from court?
Only an independent inquiry can get to the bottom of this. The Welsh Government should demand one. It wants to have authority over the Welsh Police Forces soon. They can prove that they are worthy of having this additional power by demanding an independent inquiry from Central Government. Clearing up the rotten practices which seemed to exist at the South Wales Police for decades now is the first step towards restoring faith in Welsh Police. Nothing less will do.