Disturbing news that the former head of the largest police force in the UK, may have breached professional standards following the terrible murder of a man who was brought up in Wales, highlights once more the failings of South Wales Police (SWP).
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has announced that Dame Cressida Dick, was responsible for some of the delays disclosing top-level information to the inquiry into police actions after the killing of Daniel Morgan.
Mr Morgan (who grew up in Monmouthshire), was found with an axe in his head, in a pub car park at Sydenham, London, in 1987.
Dame Cressida (who resigned from the Metropolitan Police [Met] in April), had earlier been criticised for failing to provide access to information over a seven year period, but the IOPC ruled that she should not face disciplinary charges, and she was adamant that she behaved properly.
She said: “I disagree with their analysis that my actions ‘may give an indication of a breach of standards of professional behaviour’ and that ‘I may have got the balance wrong'”.
However the background to Mr Morgan’s brutal death is worrying. The police investigation into it, has been mired in allegations of incompetence and corruption from the start, yet the IOPC found that key officers had either died or retired.
An earlier report had added to growing concern about Mr Morgan’s case, and said: “The gravity of the matter is amplified by the presence of a relatively young, inexperienced (police) workforce”.
The official criticism of the handling of the investigation into the killing, published last year, found that the Met had “a form of institutional corruption”, concealing or denying weaknesses in the case, and it was one of the factors that led the force to be put into ‘special measures’.
All of this shines the spotlight, as well, on what has gone wrong in South Wales. The largest police force in Wales (SWP) was responsible for a series of miscarriages of justice, and critics argue that the huge number of these scandals mean this organisation should ALSO be put in ‘special measures’.
The list includes, The Cardiff Three, The Cardiff Newsagent Three, The Darvell Brothers, Jonathan Jones, as well as Annette Hewins, but this does NOT have on it all those who were convicted wrongly for less important crimes from the 1980s to the 2000s, but who now have a record which will affect them for the rest of their lives. There are mounting calls to scrap SWP altogether.
One of those jailed wrongly says what has happened to the Met, should happen with SWP too. Mike O’Brien (one of the so-called Cardiff Newsagent Three) said: “Due to the number of scandals in relation to South Wales Police, they too should be put in special measures, because of the number of miscarriages of justice, followed by a full judicial inquiry”.
Mr O’Brien has organised a Media Conference (MC) to be held next month to press for that inquiry. He wants an official investigation into the actions of SWP (and others) recently, because of the number of miscarriages. The MC about what took place in South Wales is on October 12 in Cardiff’s Norwegian Church Arts Centre at 11 am, and has been organised by Mr O’Brien to coincide with the murder 35 years ago of a newsagent in the city, called Phillip Saunders, for which he was wrongly jailed, before his innocence was established.
During the 1990s our Editor, Phil Parry, was regularly approached by solicitors saying that bad things were happening in South Wales, and that something had to be done. He will be talking at the MC too, and several television programmes have been made looking at the recent events in Wales.
Adding to the woes of SWP is that a corrupt former head of CID has been jailed.
A highly complex sting trapped former Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Jones, involving the bugging of cars, and deploying of decoy ‘clients’ who made out that they wanted to pay for information.
It led Mr Jones, who is now 63, to admit 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 operation, called Operation Boost, culminated with the once-lauded police officer being jailed for 18 months.
The former top detective admitted 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.
“The public would be justifiably outraged if you didn’t receive an immediate custodial sentence.”
But even before this imprisonment emerged, there were major issues for SWP, because earlier this year, another television programme was broadcast examining Mr O’Brien’s story in detail. The promotional material for it, 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”.
Sky documentaries were also transmitted earlier this year, called Murder in the Valleys (MITV), looking into the appalling Clydach murders in 1999, which 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 have been nominated for two BAFTA Cymru awards, including best Factual Series.
Mr O’Brien, has been severely affected by being imprisoned for 11 years for something he didn’t do, and appears on MITV saying that he believes the conviction of Mr Morris is a FURTHER 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 Mr Parry), 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, in the Clydach case (when four members of the same family were killed).
It was found by the review that these traces 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’.
ACC Thorne acknowledged: “It’s safe to say we got it wrong (in the earlier cases). 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 Mr Parry had made a BBC Panorama television programme about the Clydach Murders three years after they had occurred, and he was the first to question the police actions during the investigation of this case 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 SWP.
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”. However events before the murders, have shown that SWP did EXACTLY that.
To take just one of those cases (in which Mr Parry 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.
MITV on Sky, was made by the production company ‘Five Mile Films’, and the four programmes have now been nominated for the awards at next month’s BAFTA Cymru ceremony.
There will be no awards, however, for Dame Cressida, even though she may have breached police standards, but it does at least put centre stage what has happened in South Wales…
The memories of Phil’s decades long award-winning career in journalism (including some of the miscarriages of justice he has uncovered) as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!
Publication of another book, though, was refused, because it was to have included names.