Police and court records appear to be destroyed as a matter of routine in a fairly short space of time. A case in Manchester saw Mr Zengeya convicted in 2001. He seemed to have used stolen credit cards to pay for a shipment, presumably over the phone. He claimed ‘some other guy did it’ and named him. This was to settle a debt between them. He named the other guy, who was found and arrested – but not charged and later appeared as a prosecution witness.
Mr Zengeya went through a few appeals with no luck and then to the CCRC. They sent the matter to appeal and the conviction was quashed in 2009. Mr Zengeya got 9 months, which he presumably served. The interesting thing is that the Appeal Court, notoriously difficult to convince of anything, found enough evidence to conclude there was not a fair trial. This is very strange in view of the IPCC ‘investigation’ into a complaint about the cop who dealt with the case, now Supt. Hassall. They seem only to have scraps to have a go at as all the main evidence of court records and the like and, of course, the GMP file, have been destroyed.
So what did the CCRC and the Court of Appeal work on then? And why was vital evidence destroyed when an appeal was in progress – or was it all destroyed after the appeal in case a complaint followed?
The appeal was granted on the basis of disclosure rules. It’s impossible from the poor IPCC report to make out if they contacted the court for the evidence presented to them, only to note the cupboard was empty where they looked and they avoid saying when it was emptied. You might think a case in which an innocent man was found guilty (or the opposite) would be sealed in some way so we could find out what really happened and prevent the same thing happening again. Or that an ‘independent’ commissioner would be asking very open questions as to why evidence vital to this purpose can be routinely destroyed. No ‘learning lessons’ from this one then – unless the system has already learned burning the books is the lesson to learn! The case is equally appalling if a guilty man can rely on the evidence going up in smoke and then appeal. Dismal. All we can say here is at least one guilty man walked free. The Guardian reported the following:
A commission report found that the police officer investigating the case, Steve Hassall, then a detective sergeant and now a detective superintendent for Greater Manchester police (GMP), failed to disclose certain important pieces of evidence, relating to Usman, which should have been put before the jury.
The commission found the failure to give full and proper disclosure of material relating to the credibility of the key prosecution witness rendered the conviction unsafe.
“Hassall’s witness statement was clearly misleading in that he said Usman was interviewed in relation to ‘unconnected offences of obtaining services by deception’ whereas the records of his police interviews clearly showed that he was interviewed as a suspect and also, as regards items found in his house, as a potential fraudster,” the commission’s report said.
If the CCRC was able to conclude this, what standard of evidence is it using in comparison with the IPCC who couldn’t find anything? The CCRC mention being able to compare the officer’s statement and police records, yet this was something the IPCC could not do.
Another feature of this is that only the poor cop is subject to investigation – why not the lawyers and judge?
As part of the CCRC investigation both the defence and prosecution barrister argued they did not believe they had been aware of Mr A's arrest prior to the start of the trial. Both opined that Supt Hassall's statement to the court was "misleading" in that it didn't specifically state that Mr A had been arrested for the specific offence that Mr Zengeya was charged with. In particular the use of the term "unconnected offences" was believed to be most misleading. However Mr Zengeya's defence barrister also opined to the IPCC investigators that it did appear the arrest of Mr A had been disclosed during evidence and therefore the allegedly misleading statement could not have undermined the case.
On the basis of the above from the IPCC report I wonder what use these lawyers and the trial judge are. The question seems to be whether Mr.Z did it, Mr. U did it or whether they acted together. We need to know why the system was so piss poor this was not thrashed out in court at the time. All that we can be sure of is that documents from which lessons could be learned are being destroyed. And Mr. Z’s defence lawyer was no good.
The Appeal Court judgement is not available. Shouldn’t the CCRC do something to stop records being ‘routinely’ destroyed like this?