By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (January 11th 2012)
The Suspension of Disbelief
There is no longer any credible doubt that the Cardiff Five are innocent, but they always were. It should not have required the conviction of the real murderer of Lynette White to convince anyone. Any objective review of the evidence should have led inexorably to that conclusion. As with other miscarriage of justice cases the evidence and common sense ought to have prevented not only wrongful convictions, but the wrongful arrests too.
The murder of Lynette White is a tawdry tale of a vicious killing that involved excessive brutality – far beyond what was needed to kill – and the investigation and trials that followed of justice betrayed. It is now established as one of the most notorious and easily preventable miscarriages of justice in British history.
An extraordinary tale began in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 1988 with what was then the most brutal murder of its type in Welsh history – over 50 stab wounds – with obvious sexual overtones to it. After ten months the original inquiry revealed a closed mind that focused on obviously innocent men.
Forensic science proved the police’s scenario that five men and at least two alleged eyewitnesses were in that room along with the victim was quite frankly ludicrous. This became an egregious miscarriage of justice, but it ought to have been impossible. The quality of the evidence gathered against the five men who eventually stood trial was woeful to put it mildly.
It was a case that required an extraordinary suspension of disbelief from several professionals, especially lawyers who should have known better, but there is nothing in that story that does not occur routinely in other cases. It is the combination of what has gone wrong that is incredible. Equally unbelievable is the failure of the criminal justice system to halt a plainly inappropriate prosecution in its tracks and hold those who failed the public accountable.
Bullied and Hectored
It is well known that Stephen Miller was ‘bullied and hectored’ by police in interviews that breached his rights shamefully. Miller was shouted down until he accepted the police’s version of Lynette’s murder – a scientifically ludicrous scenario that produced an utterly false confession.
Miller was an extremely vulnerable person. He was highly suggestible and of below average intelligence. He was very susceptible to bullying and held to an absurd standard by David Elfer QC – a standard that required accepting everything put to him to meet Elfer’s definition of suggestibility.
Dr Gisli Gudjonsson, the acknowledged leader in his field, understood the extent of Miller’s vulnerability to making a false confession. Sadly Elfer did not and, even more worryingly, nor did Miller’s defence lawyers for his trial and retrial. Their failures contributed in no small measure to an awful miscarriage of justice.