Shocking reports about the number of corrupt officers in police forces, highlight once again disturbing revelations concerning those in Wales, including the biggest one, which was responsible for a string of miscarriage of justice cases.
One review by His Majesty’s Inspectorate for Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services found that thousands in the police have criminal records, are linked to gangsters or pose a risk to the public.
Analysis of personnel files, found that it was far too easy for misogynistic, corrupt or predatory officers to join up and stay in uniform, while Matt Parr, Inspector of Constabulary, called for better screening to weed out dangerous individuals. A remarkable 43 recommendations were made to address “shoddy” standards.
Issues at the largest force in the UK (The Metropolitan Police [The Met]) appear to be particularly bad.
Another report discovered that since 2013, less than one per cent of officers accused of at least two breaches of standards had been sacked, and racism in the force was rampant with black officers 81 per cent more likely than white ones to have cases brought against them.
It is obvious that the fairly new chief constable there, Sir Mark Rowley, has his work cut out, but has set out noble aims, by saying that those who “display negative attitudes to people because of their gender, race, religion, sexuality, disability” do not belong in The Met.
The awful situation seems little better in the tiny Welsh force of Gwent Police (GP).
In an investigation by The Sunday Times (ST) headlined “The Toxic Blue Line”, it was published about GP: “There are industrial levels of abuse, racism and potential corruption”.
Officers made sick, so-called, ‘jokes’.
The paper reported how phone records show that they had ‘joked’ about sending Jimmy Savile to rescue Thai schoolboys trapped in a cave, and swapped nude pictures of a female footballer.
It said there had been “exposed a toxic culture of corruption, racism (and) homophobia in Gwent police force”, with the Welsh Government (WG) saying it would ‘consider’ investigating.
Meanwhile, these appalling disclosures put centre stage actions by the largest in Wales, South Wales Police (SWP). There has been a string of miscarriage of justice cases on its watch, and a Media Conference (MC), was held last month (at which our Editor, Phil Parry, spoke) calling for a judicial inquiry to uncover the truth about what happened.
Following the MC some then marched to the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC), and Welsh Government (WG) buildings to demand action.
Nine members of the WP/SC have backed a Statement of Opinion supporting the calls for an inquiry.
They were all underlining alarm about miscarriages in the 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s including: The Cardiff Three (Five), The Cardiff Newsagent Three, The Darvell Brothers, Jonathan Jones (The Tooze Murders), as well as Annette Hewins. But this shameful list does NOT have on it all those innocent people, who were convicted of less important crimes, yet who now have a record which will affect them for the rest of their lives, and there is a powerful argument for getting rid of SWP completely.
Phil emphasised the disturbing fact that areas with a greater population, have FEWER police forces.
“It is ridiculous that in a population of 3.1 million people we in Wales have FOUR forces (among them the small GP)”, he told The Eye. “Scotland is much bigger, but only has ONE. London has almost nine million people yet has just TWO. Think of the public money that is wasted duplicating resources, to pay fat salaries to all those Assistant Chief Constables, and Chief Constables!”.
At the MC, Phil said to the audience that he was regularly approached by solicitors during the 1990s, who said the police were doing bad things, and that something had to be done. On one occasion he was told to put away his notebook because he was informed that no record should be made of the conversation.
He also described how other forces had been put in ‘special measures’ (including The Met), but that this was the least that should be done with SWP.
The MC was organised by one of those wrongly convicted after a flawed investigation by its officers, (Mike O’Brien, of the so-called Cardiff Newsagent Three). Mr O’Brien spoke movingly about how his health had been badly affected after he spent 11 years inside prison, for a crime he did not commit.
He told The Eye earlier: “My health has been ruined, and there has been long-lasting damage. My miscarriage of justice case has caused a huge family rift”. Mr O’Brien, who is now in his fifties, was jailed wrongly in 1988 for the killing of Cardiff newsagent, Phillip Saunders.
Another who spoke emotionally last month of what had happened to him, was John Actie, one of the Cardiff Three/Five. He was accused of involvement in the murder of 20-year-old Lynette White, who was viciously killed in James Street in what is now known as Cardiff Bay.
Three BLACK men had been convicted of the murder (although FIVE, including Mr Actie, were put on trial), when one WHITE man (Jeffrey Gafoor) was finally caught years later through DNA analysis. He confessed to carrying out the terrible 1988 murder, and even apologised to the others who had been incorrectly jailed.
The five innocent men, were arrested in December 1988 after detectives had been on the case for 10 months, and were pursuing a suspect seen nearby (who looked EXACTLY like Mr Gafoor), minutes following the murder. But when SWP changed the investigating team, and pressure mounted to make an arrest, attention turned to locals. Despite no forensic evidence connecting the five to Ms White’s murder they were taken in.
Tony Paris, Yusef Abdullahi, and Stephen Miller were found guilty in 1990 of the murder and spent more than two years serving prison sentences having spent the same time on remand, while cousins John and Ronnie Actie were acquitted after being in custody since their arrest.
False eyewitness statements, coerced confessions, and more were used in the police ‘investigation’. However on appeal in 1992 the taped interviews with Mr Miller, who had a mental age of 11, were deemed an example of inappropriate interrogation for reference in future cases, such was their intimidating and coercive nature.
Several programmes have been broadcast looking at the events in which the police played such a major part, and a number are in production now. Earlier this year, another was transmitted examining Mr O’Brien’s story in detail.
The promotional material before one of them, declared: “Episode One Monday 23rd May at 9pm Raphael Rowe delves into the brutal murder of Cardiff newsagent Phillip Saunders in 1987. The episode examines the investigation that led to the conviction of three innocent men, which resulted in their wrongful imprisonment. The episode reveals shocking police threats and coercion that led to the arrest and incarceration of Michael O’Brien, Ellis Sherwood and Darren Hall. After the men had spent more than a decade behind bars, a court appeal quashed the original verdict, but the unsolved case continues to haunt the city. Plus, for the first time ever, the victim’s sister and nephew break a 35-year silence and reveal exclusive insights into the case”.
Adding to the woes of SWP, and emphasising the report into police corruption generally, is that a former head of CID was recently jailed. A highly complex sting operation trapped one time Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Jones, which involved the bugging of cars, and deploying of decoy ‘clients’ who made out they wanted to pay for information.
It climaxed in Mr Jones, who is now 63, admitting to paying an ex-colleague to supply him with information from police databases, after he retired from SWP to run a private investigations agency in 1997.
The lengthy investigation, called Operation Boost, led to the once-lauded police officer being jailed for 18 months. Mr Jones confessed to conspiracy to commit wilful misconduct in a public office, and conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, at Bristol Crown Court in December 2008.
The judge Simon Darwall-Smith said: “For a person of your age and former seniority, retiring at the rank of detective chief superintendent, it saddens this court to see how you conspired with your friends…because you knew they were prepared to break the law to access information.
“This lack of moral fibre on your part goes to the root of the corrupt culture existing in parts of the force.”
Sky documentaries were also broadcast earlier this year, called Murder in the Valleys (MITV), looking into a FURTHER CASE – the horrific Clydach murders in 1999.
This, too, was put centre stage by the MC, as well as by the report into police corruption, despite the fact it is not (in theory) a miscarriage of justice case, although the man convicted of them (David ‘Dai’ Morris) died last year still protesting his innocence. They were nominated for two awards at the BAFTA Cymru ceremony, including one for best Factual Series.
Mr O’Brien appears on MITV saying that he believes the conviction of Mr Morris IS in fact a miscarriage of justice. He told the MITV documentary-makers: “When I was released from prison I remember… saying ‘I’m going to be South Wales Police’s worst nightmare for what they did to me’, and I meant every word of it”.
In a formal interview for MITV (they wouldn’t do one with Phil), Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) of SWP, David Thorne, made a startling admission, about the mistakes that were made by the police in the earlier miscarriages of justice.
During filming for the programme Mr Thorne appeared on, a forensic review found traces of DNA on a sock which it is believed was used to hold the murder weapon, that were “more likely than not” to have come from Mr Morris, and SWP trumpeted the finding. They effectively said: ‘We know we got it wrong in the past, but this time is different. Trust us’.
Yet a long-running campaign has been launched to establish his innocence, and after the first trial when Mr Morris was convicted, his sister Debra gave a press conference with her parents when she stressed her belief that he was NOT guilty. She said: “He just didn’t do these things…they’ve got the wrong man”.
However, ACC Thorne insisted on MITV, that Mr Morris was the RIGHT man, but acknowledged that mistakes had been made in previous police inquiries.
He proclaimed: “It’s safe to say we got it wrong (in the past). We absolutely got it wrong. There were HUGE errors in the way investigations were conducted (but) we HAVEN’T found that in this case. This is not a miscarriage of justice”.
Yet Phil had made a BBC Panorama television programme about the shocking Clydach Murders three years after they had been committed, and he was the first to question the police actions during THIS investigation too.
As he said in the opening of the programme: “One police force in Britain has a disturbing record of locking up the wrong people in murder cases”.
During MITV, the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) at the time, Detective Superintendent (DS) (Retd.) of South Wales Police (SWP) Martyn Lloyd Evans, is questioned about the apparent mistake of not releasing to the public a witnesses E-Fit constructed soon after the murders, which, it said, had a 90 per cent likeness. He replies that because the man seen was carrying a bag, and it was believed the killer did not have one, it was not put out.
Mr Evans said: “I didn’t think it was relevant”, but the E-Fit matched almost exactly the face of the first senior police officer on the scene, Inspector (at the time) Stuart Lewis, who (against all procedure) had only stayed there a matter of minutes, or that of his identical twin brother (another police officer, Sergeant [also at the time] Stephen Lewis, whose wife was having a gay affair with one of the victims).
Inspector Stuart Lewis, had changed his shift to be on that night, however at crucial hours during the murders his whereabouts were unknown. He was driving a red Peugeot diesel, and a car similar to this was spotted near the murder scene.
So to say the E-Fit was ‘not relevant’, appeared bizarre in the extreme, to critics of the police.
In the MITV films Mr Evans’ boss as the then head of SWP CID, Wynne Phillips, also said something incredible: “We can’t manufacture evidence”. But events before the murders, showed that SWP have done EXACTLY that.
To take just one of those cases (in which Phil was intimately involved, because he had made ANOTHER programme questioning THAT conviction [The Cardiff Newsagent Three]), the police MANUFACTURED (as Mr Phillips said they DIDN’T do) an overheard ‘confession’ between the young men they had arrested, when an admission was effectively made to the murder of the newsagent, and they presented before the court ‘EVIDENCE’ that the group had run from the scene, but one of the three had bad legs and couldn’t run at all.
Sadly there is now evidence of the number of corrupt police officers in place across England and Wales, but it does at least shine the spotlight on what has occurred with forces in Wales, including the largest one, which has been behind a huge number of miscarriages of justice…
The memories of Phil’s incredible 39-year award-winning career in journalism (including important miscarriage of justice stories), as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition , Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.
Tomorrow – why furious Welsh rugby fans have condemned a circular from the governing body hoping the experience had been ‘enjoyed’, sent a day after the national team lost to the sporting minnow Georgia, with one furiously telling executives that the elite “have had their snouts in the trough for far too long”.