The Independent Police Complaints Commission has today concluded its oversight of the Lynette White miscarriage of justice investigation into allegations of misconduct and criminality by former South Wales Police officers.
The IPCC has published Commissioner for Wales Tom Davies overview of his supervision of the police investigation and has set out his key decision-making, including why he decided South Wales Police should carry out this investigation.
Lynette White was murdered by Jeffrey Gafoor on Valentine's Day 1988. Five men were originally charged with the murder of Ms White, and Yusef Abdullahi, Stephen Miller and Tony Paris were jailed in 1990. They were subsequently freed in 1992 after appealing to the Court of Appeal.
IPCC Commissioner for Wales Tom Davies said: "It is 25 years since Lynette was brutally murdered and I recognise that her family and friends have had to contend with her death and the many twists and turns of this case. There are also other victims in this case: the Cardiff Five, only three of whom are still surviving.
"This investigation has been carried out under the Police Act (1996), the legislation that applied before the IPCC came into existence. These powers had considerable constraints – in particular, the IPCC's new powers to carry out independent investigations did not apply - and meant that the choice I had was in appointing which police force would investigate the miscarriage of justice.
"I carefully considered the need for a full investigation which would carry with it the confidence of the public, as well as Lynette White's family and the Cardiff Five.
"In the end I decided that South Wales Police had to actively engage with the public in Wales to try and restore its reputation and I decided the most effective way to do this would be for the force itself to carry out the investigation. I believe that the subsequent investigation I supervised has met that test.
"An Independent Advisory Group, which comprised a number of leading academics and members of the local community, chaired by Professor Margaret Griffiths, played a key part. I want to play tribute to their invaluable role in acting as a critical friend and ensuring that key decisions were carefully scrutinised before being acted upon.
"This was a groundbreaking investigation and many lessons have been learnt from this to guide future historical crime and serious misconduct investigations and improve police practice in future.
"Chief Superintendent Chris Coutts and his team conducted a thorough investigation and carried it out with integrity and diligence.
"The investigation provided the strength of evidence leading to the Crown Prosecution Service decision to charge witnesses with perjury and to charge former officers with perjury and conspiracy.
"I have always publicly stated that the detail of the investigation should be put into the public domain.
"Under the provisions of the Police Act (1996) the report belongs to South Wales Police. It is therefore their responsibility to decide what and how much they can legally publish. The force has committed to publishing as full an investigation report as it considers it reasonably can.
"I have now formally signed off this investigation as meeting the terms of reference I set it, following submission of a final report from South Wales Police, over 700 pages of supporting material and many other reports, documents and briefings received during my supervision of this case.
"As the officers under investigation have all retired there are now no disciplinary matters remaining for consideration. That means the IPCC supervision of this investigation has concluded.”
The supervised investigation had to be carried out under the Police Act (1996) which predated the formation of the IPCC. This meant that the IPCC used the limited powers available to its predecessor, the Police Complaints Authority.
The IPCC started its supervision of the SWP investigation in 2004 following a re-referral in August 2004 after an original referral to the Police Complaints Authority in 2003.
South Wales Police is publishing its report on its website at http://www.south-wales.police.uk/news/ipcc-concludes-oversight-south-wal....
The evidence found during the course of this investigation was considered by the Crown Prosecution Service and led to charging decisions for perjury for the three core witnesses, to which they pleaded guilty. The CPS also decided to charge the 13 former police officers and two civilian witnesses with perjury and conspiracy. The trial collapsed on 1 December 2011; the reasons behind this have been explored in a report by the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate report and an IPCC report, both published on 16 July 2013 – links to the relevant documents are below:
Commissioner foreword: http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/guidelines_reports/...
IPCC Final Report - Missing Documents: http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/guidelines_reports/...
Crown Prosecution Service - http://www.cps.gov.uk/news/latest_news/reform_of_disclosure_management/i...