by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (December 9th 2011)
The Police Corruption Trial of the Century ended in farce on December 1st 2011 – a nine year investigative process had resulted in convictions of three vulnerable witnesses and no others. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), prosecutor Nicholas Dean QC and defence lawyers – police even – all accepted that they had been forced to lie. Nevertheless, the law did not recognise the duress that they had suffered.
Mark Grommek, Angela Psaila and Learnne Vilday therefore had no choice but to plead guilty to perjuring themselves.1 Having done so, they were treated leniently due to the bullying they had endured by police officers who had in the words of the judge used methods that were “unacceptable in a civilised society”.
The New Cardiff Three were sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. By March 2009 the CPS announced that 13 police officers (some of whom had retired) had been charged with a variety of offences including conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury. Two witnesses also faced those charges. They had no intention of going down meekly. However, this would prove to be a poorly prepared prosecution marred by penny-pinching foolishness that would ultimately cost the public millions more and deprive us all of the accountability and answers we have waited years to discover.
Despite the seriousness of the case it was destined to be heard in Swansea before Mr Justice (Sir Nigel) Sweeney. The judge had been involved in prosecuting a notorious crime – the Chillenden attack on the Russell family which left Lin Russell and her daughter Megan and dog Lucy dead and Josie Russell fighting for her life.
Sweeney knew that the Crownʼs pathologist – albeit subsequently discredited – suggested that there had been significant contact between the killer and a bootlace used to strangle the unfortunate Megan. There was no disputing that the contact was substantial and that the killerʼs DNA would have been on the lace, but Sweeney knew that Michael Stoneʼs DNA was not on that boot-lace. This was strong evidence of innocence, but a fanciful explanation was advanced and Stoneʼs defence accepted the Crownʼs willingness to stipulate that Stoneʼs DNA and fingerprints had not been discovered at the crime-scene.
The Crown claimed that Stone – a habitual drugs-user – had obtained the lace from another user and had used it to restrain Megan. Somehow despite putting substantial pressure through the lace onto his fingers he had not deposited his own DNA while both Meganʼs and the unknown drug-user he had allegedly obtained the lace from remained on it, or at least alleles (bands in the DNA testing system used did).
It was obvious that the far more probable explanation of the unidentified male DNA at the relevant points on the lace was that it had been shed by the killer. It was yet another example of a convenient interpretation of the DNA results – one that stretched credibility and most probably contributed to an egregious miscarriage of justice. Sweeney was either aware of the fanciful nature of the explanation that he relied on, or he should have been.
Stone was convicted again in September 2001 and subsequently lost an appeal. An application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) failed to present the compelling scientific evidence of innocence. He remains in prison for very serious crimes that he did not commit in circumstances where strong evidence supporting his claims of innocence has never been heard by any court or even the CCRC.
By this time a very significant miscarriage of justice – a Dutch vindication case had thoroughly unravelled. The Schiedammer Parkmoord has been covered in considerable detail by us (see the various articles on that case). Astonishingly the significance and potential of that case remains largely ignored by supporters of Stone, lawyers and media all professing to champion his innocence even though the methods used in that case to prove the innocence of Kees Borsboom are plainly apt in Stoneʼs case.
Shamefully, the scope to prove him innocent remains ignored while an almost certainly innocent man languishes in prison. Meanwhile, an expert who has first hand experience of the issues involved is denied the opportunity to test his claims of innocence. Sweeneyʼs role in securing this miscarriage of justice has never been subjected to public scrutiny. Over a decade later no media apart from us even mentions it, let alone investigates it.
1 Psaila and Vilday pleaded guilty earlier, but Grommek, represented by David Aubrey QC denied the charges until Mr Justice (Sir David) Maddison ruled that duress was no defence to perjury charges. Grommek changed his plea to guilty to all three charges. Psaila and Vilday had already pleaded guilty to perjury at the second trial