Commission refers the convictions of Winston Trew and Sterling Christie on the basis of police misconduct.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred convictions of Winston Trew and  Sterling Christie to the Court of Appeal.

Messrs Trew and Christie were convicted along with two others at the Old Bailey on 8th November 1972. All four men were convicted of assaulting a police officer and attempted theft. Mr Christie was also convicted of the theft of a police woman’s handbag.

The co-defendants, who became known as the Oval Four, had been arrested on 16th March 1972 at Oval Station on the London Underground by a special patrol set up to target thefts on the Northern Line. The operation was led by Detective Sergeant Derek Ridgewell who was also the key prosecution witness.

All four men were aged between 19 and 23 when arrested and were of Jamaican origin and had moved to the UK as children and were living in South London.

Messrs Trew and Christie and one other defendant were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. The youngest defendant was sent to Borstal (a youth detention centre).

All four men appealed. Their appeals against conviction failed but the appeals against sentence succeeded and the prison sentences were reduced from two-years to eight months.

After his release Mr Trew made a complaint to the police and continued to protest his innocence. He wrote about his experience in book called Black for a Cause…Not Just Because… which he published in 2010. In 2013 Mr Trew took legal advice about the possibility of contesting his conviction but took no further action.

The Commission contacted Mr Trew during the course of its investigation into the case of Stephen Simmons.

Mr Simmons had been arrested by DS Ridgewell in 1975 and convicted of theft on the basis of Ridgewell’s evidence. The Commission investigated Mr Simmons’ case and referred it to the Court of Appeal where, in January 2018, his conviction was quashed, largely because of the misconduct of DS Ridgewell. (DS Ridgewell had pleaded guilty in 1980 to conspiracy to steal and had been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. DS Ridgewell died in prison in 1982.)

Mr Trew formally applied to the Commission after the Court of Appeal quashed Mr Simmons’ conviction. The Commission contacted Mr Christie shortly after receiving Mr Trew’s application. The other two co-defendants could not be traced and are thought to have emigrated from the UK in the 1970s. They are welcome to apply if they choose to.

Having reviewed the convictions of Messrs Trew and Christie the Commission has decided to refer their convictions to the Court of Appeal. The referral is made because the Commission considers there is a real possibility that the Court will quash the conviction on the basis of new evidence and arguments concerning the integrity of DS Ridgewell including:

·        the conviction of DS Ridgewell in 1978.

·        the successful appeal of Mr Simmons (R v Simmons [2018] EWCA Crim 114) on a referral by the CCRC and observations of the Lord Chief Justice in that judgment.

·        the significance of judicial comment and acquittals in three other London Underground cases investigated by DS Ridgewell: R v Freeman, Gordon, Morgan and Morris (the ‘Waterloo 4’) at Southwark Juvenile Court in April 1972; R v Chikuri and Swelah (the ‘Tottenham Court Road 2’) at the Central Criminal Court in April 1973; and R v Mullins, Davison, De Souza, Green, Harriott and Johnson (the ‘Stockwell 6’) at the Central Criminal Court in September 1972.

·        The quashing of the conviction of Mr Hasan (R v Hasan, Peterkin, Campbell and Ogunshola, 13 January 1978) which raised concerns about the credibility of DS Ridgewell.

Helen Pitcher, Chairman of the CCRC, said: “This is an interesting case and a good example of the work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, although it was far from typical. The age of the case meant that almost all of the information that we usually have to go on – such as police material and prosecution and court files – had long ago been destroyed so we had to go to great lengths to piece things together.

“The only remaining official paperwork was the Court of Appeal judgment. So we tried to trace participants in the trial (other than the defendants) but the judge and defence counsel were both deceased.   We tracked down the diaries of defence counsel,  John Platts-Mills QC, to Hull History Centre but he had not  mentioned this trial. We eventually found a copy of the trial transcript in the hands of the British Transport Police History Group. That helped us to understand in sufficient detail exactly what had happened in the trial and allowed us to analyse the significance of the new evidence.”

Neither Mr Trew nor Mr Christie were legally represented during their applications to the CCRC.

The Commission is aware of the potential significance that this case may have in a number of other similar convictions. We have determined to try to contact relevant individuals if appropriate when the Court of Appeal has decided the appeal of Mr Trew and Mr Christie.

This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 07947 355231 or e-mail press@ccrc.gov.uk

Notes for editors

1.     The Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.

2.     There are currently 13 Commissioners who bring to the Commission considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.

3.     The Commission usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.

4.     The Commission considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made.  New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal.  Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.

5.     If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.

6.     More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at www.ccrc.gov.uk The Commission can be found on Twitter using @ccrcupdate