UK court to overturn 1970s convictions of black men

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Three black men jailed for attempting to rob a corrupt police officer nearly 50 years ago are expected to have their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal finally.

Courtney Harriot, Paul Green and Cleveland Davidson, all aged between 17 and 20, were arrested on the London Underground while travelling from Stockwell station, south London, in February 1972.

The trio, now in their late 60s, and three friends who became known as the ‘Stockwell Six,’ were put on trial at the Old Bailey, largely on the word of British Transport Police officer Derek Ridgewell.

The Stockwell Six were accused of trying to rob Mr Ridgewell, who was in plainclothes and had previously served in the South Rhodesia, now Zimbabwean, police force.

They all pleaded not guilty, but all but one was convicted and sent to jail or Borstal, despite telling jurors that police officers had lied and subjected them to violence and threats.

Their convictions were referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission on the basis that “there is a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will now quash those convictions.”

At a hearing on Tuesday, the Court of Appeal is expected to finally clear Messrs Harriot, Green and Davidson’s names nearly five decades after they were convicted.

Mr Ridgewell was involved in a number of high-profile and controversial cases in the early 1970s, culminating in the 1973 acquittals of the “Tottenham Court Road Two’’ two young Jesuits studying at Oxford University.
He was then moved into a department investigating mailbag theft, where he joined up with two criminals with whom he split the profits of stolen mailbags.

Mr Ridgewell was eventually caught and jailed for seven years, dying of a heart attack in prison in 1982 at 37.

The case of the Stockwell Six would be the third time Ridgewell’s corruption has led to wrongful convictions being overturned by the Court of Appeal.

In January 2018, Stephen Simmons’ 1976 conviction for stealing mailbags was quashed after discovering that Ridgewell was jailed for a similar offence just two years after his conviction.

In December 2019, three members of the ‘Oval Four,’ arrested at Oval Underground station in 1972 and accused of stealing handbags by Mr Ridgewell’s mugging squad also had their convictions overturned.

Winston Trew, Sterling Christie and George Griffiths were all sentenced to two years, later reduced to eight months on appeal, following a five-week trial at the Old Bailey.

Quashing their convictions, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said there was an accumulating body of evidence that points to the fundamental unreliability of evidence given by Mr Ridgewell and others of this specialist group.

In March 2020, the final member of the Oval Four, Constantine ‘Omar’ Boucher, also had his name cleared, prompting calls for a “wholesale review” of all cases linked to Mr Ridgewell.
The hearing, before Julian Flaux, Justice Linden and Justice Wall, was due to begin at the Royal Courts of Justice in London at 10:30 a.m.

(dpa/NAN)

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