IPCC publishes report of its Lynette White ‘missing’ documents investigation
The IPCC independent investigation into the Lynette White ‘missing' documents case has found that police officers did not order their destruction but that recording errors made by the police in 2009 meant they were difficult to retrieve from the system when required.
The IPCC has today published its investigation report into the alleged destruction of documents by South Wales Police, which led to the end of the prosecution of eight former police officers and two civilians (R v Mouncher & others).
This trial arose from the investigation by SWP of allegations concerning the conduct of the original inquiry into the murder of Lynette White in Cardiff in 1988.
The trial started on 4 July 2011 at Swansea Crown Court and ended on 1 December 2011 after prosecuting counsel formally offered no evidence because it appeared that the SWP senior investigating officer had given an instruction to shred four files of documents.
South Wales Police voluntarily referred the matter to the IPCC and an independent investigation started on 2 December 2011. On 17 January 2012, the documents that the trial was told had been destroyed were found by Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Coutts.
At the same time that the IPCC decided to investigate the ‘shredded' documents, the Director of Public Prosecution asked HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate to undertake an independent review of the whole disclosure process at the trial.
IPCC Commissioner Sarah Green said: "The IPCC investigation was focused on establishing when the documents came into the possession of South Wales Police, and what happened to them.
"When the documents were discovered the IPCC was able to verify that these were the same documents that had been sent by the IPCC to the police for disclosure purposes.
"I have concluded on the balance of probabilities that no instruction was ever given by the senior investigating officer, or any other officer, to destroy the documents. In fact, the finding of these documents proves the veracity of the officers' accounts that the documents had not been destroyed.
"However, mistakes were made by individual officers in relation to the receipt, recording and storage of the documents which meant that the documents could not easily be located.
"I have concluded that these mistakes should be considered performance issues and I have recommended that three officers should receive management action regarding proper disclosure processes. However, I agreed in the circumstances - including that these mistakes were made in the context of the volume of over 800,000 pages of documents required to be processed - that they did not warrant formal misconduct proceedings.
” There was also some learning from our investigation which has been accepted by SWP and was also shared with the HMCPSI review team.
"The IPCC investigation was concluded within six months. I agreed with HM Chief Inspector Michael Fuller that both investigations would cooperate with each other. It was also agreed that if in the course of the CPSI investigation any issues of police misconduct came to light, they would be referred to the IPCC. No further referrals were made.
"As these two independent investigations related to the same trial I agreed with the Crown Prosecution Service to publish the results of both investigations once the HMCPSI investigation was completed.”
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For further information contact the IPCC press office on 020 7166 3951.
The preparations for such complex cases are jointly managed by a prosecution team, consisting of the Crown Prosecution Service, their legal counsel and the police. The IPCC investigation was not into the collapse of the trial, nor the work of this wider team, which was reviewed separately at the direction of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer.
South Wales Police will be submitting its final report on the investigation supervised by the IPCC from August 2004 to IPCC Commissioner for Wales Tom Davies. This will enable the IPCC to discharge its responsibility under the provisions of the Police Act 1996. This report will be published on the IPCC website later this summer.
On 26 January 2012, the DPP indicated that shortly after the collapse of this trial, he had initiated a full and detailed review of the circumstances in which the decision to offer no further evidence was made.
The Director asked Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, an independent statutory body, to consider the way in which the prosecution team conducted the disclosure exercise in this case. This review was carried out by HM Chief Inspector Michael Fuller and is also being published today by the CPS http://www.cps.gov.uk/