CCRC Statement on the Court of Appeal’s decision to quash the convictions of Winston Trew, Sterling Christie and George Griffiths
The Court of Appeal has today quashed the convictions of Winston Trew, Sterling Christie and George Griffiths following a referral for appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission on the basis of police misconduct.
CCRC Chairman Helen Pitcher said:
“We are delighted for Mr Trew, Mr Christie and Mr Griffiths and pleased that the Court agreed with our assessment that the misconduct of DS Ridgewell rendered their convictions unsafe.
“It is a good example of what we do at the CCRC. We worked hard on this case, as we do on all our cases, and it is good to see our efforts recognised in this way.
“The age of this 1970s case created particular challenges and we had to go to great lengths to piece things together because so much of the case material had been destroyed.
“The CCRC sought out these cases after we sent the conviction of Stephen Simmons for appeal last year based on the misconduct of the same police officer. His conviction was also quashed.
“The passage of time has meant that few if any records survive to help us understand how many similar cases there may be. The CCRC would be very glad to hear from anyone who believes they were wrongly convicted where DS Ridgewell was involved.”
CCRC Chairman Helen Pitcher can be available on 5 December to provide interviews. Interviews will be offered on the basis that Mrs Pitcher will be able to articulate the ideas in the statement above. Rules relating to public bodies in the pre-election Purdah period mean that Mrs Pitcher will be unable to venture beyond the statement.
Background to the case
The CCRC referred the cases of Messrs Trew and Christie on 14th October. Mr Griffiths, who has lived abroad for a number of years, contacted the CCRC, via the Guardian newspaper, after becoming aware of media coverage of the CCRC’s referral for appeal of his co-defendants. The CCRC referred Mr Griffiths’ case for appeal on the same grounds on 14th November 2019.
The three men, and one other, were convicted together at the Old Bailey on 8th November 1972 of assaulting a police officer and attempted theft. Mr Christie was also convicted of the theft of a police woman’s handbag. Messrs Trew and Christie and another co-defendant, were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Mr Griffiths was sent to Borstal (a youth detention centre).
The co-defendants, who became known as the Oval Four, had been arrested together 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 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 a 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.) For more detail see CCRC press release on this case here.
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. Mr Griffiths contacted the CCRC after finding out about the CCRC referring the cases of Messrs Trew and Christie. The remaining co-defendant has not been traced and is thought to have emigrated from the UK in the 1970s. He is welcome to th eCCRC apply if he chooses to.
The basis of the CCRC referrals
Having reviewed the convictions of Messrs Trew, Christie and Griffiths the Commission decided to refer their convictions to the Court of Appeal. The referrals were made because the Commission considered that there was a real possibility that the Court would quash their convictions 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  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.
Neither Mr Trew, Mr Christie, nor Mr Griffiths were legally represented during their applications to the CCRC.
Enquiries about this press statement should be made to Miles Trent on 07789 945304, or Justin Hawkins on 07947 355231, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors
- 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.
- 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.
- The Commission usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year.Since starting work in 1997, theCCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.
- 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”.
- If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.
- 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