Officers accused of framing men for murder in UK's 'biggest' trial of police

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Swansea Crown Court
Image: Nigel Davis.

The trial of eight retired police officers and two witnesses involved in a high-profile Welsh miscarriage of justice began yesterday in Swansea, south Wales. The ten are accused of framing three men for murder. The Independent Police Complaints Commission thinks it is the largest trial of police the UK has ever seen.

20-year-old prostitute Lynette White was murdered in her Cardiff flat in 1988. Two years later, the 'Cardiff Three' — Stephen Miller, Yusef Abdullahi and Tony Paris — were convicted of her murder. They were cleared on appeal in 1992. Cousins Ronnie and John Actie were tried alongside the Three, but cleared.

In 2003 the real killer, Jeffrey Gafoor, admitted to the crime and was sentenced to life in prison. Gafoor, a client of White's, stabbed her more than 50 times.

All those presently accused deny the allegations against them. The eight policemen are accused of a joint conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in a plot to "mould, manipulate, influence and fabricate evidence."

Amongst these are three senior officers — chief superintendent Thomas Page, chief inspector Graham Mouncher and chief inspector Richard Powell. Mouncher also faces two charges of perjury — the offence of lying under oath in court. The junior officers accused in the conspiracy are Michael Daniels, Paul Jennings, Paul Stephen, Peter Greenwood, and John Seaford.

Alongside Mouncher, original trial witnesses Violet Perriam and Ian Massey also face two counts of perjury each. Both were civilians working for the police. Perriam is said to have lied by saying she saw people including Actie at the crime scene; Massey's charges relate to his claiming Paris had confessed.

The ten defendants are being tried before Mr Justice Sweeney, who will also oversee a second trial next year in which four more police officers face related charges. The cases were not tried together because of practicalities.

A jury was sworn in at Swansea Crown Court yesterday, drawn from a panel of 400 potential jurors. The judge warned them to take no heed of contemporary or historic reporting on any of the trials, and refrain from talking to anyone about the case. Nick Dean QC, for the prosecution, told them they were dealing with a complicated, unusual case. The trial could take up to six months to complete.