Two men, Saliah Mehmet and Basil Peterkin, who were framed by a disgraced British Transport Police (BTP) officer, have posthumously had their unsafe convictions quashed, ending a 46-year miscarriage of justice following a Criminal Cases Review Commission investigation.
The two men worked as employees of British Rail at a South London goods depot, and were accused of re-labelling mail parcels, directing them to new addresses, and then selling their contents for profit.
Both were convicted in 1977 and sentenced to 9 months in prison. The cases against them were based on what turned out to be corrupt police evidence from DS Derek Ridgewell, along with DC Douglas Ellis and DC Alan Keeling, who were later convicted in 1980 for stealing £364,000 worth of items from the same depot.
Having heard evidence of Ridgewell’s ‘dishonest, corrupt and racist’ practices, the Criminal Court of Appeal has quashed the convictions of Mehmet and Peterkin, with Lord Justice Holroyde saying it is ‘very unfortunate’ that so many years passed before families saw the injustice ‘rectified’ and that Mr Peterkin and Mr Mehmet ‘have not lived to learn of their vindication’.
Henry Blaxland KC, bringing the appeal for Mehmet and Peterkin, told the court that ‘systemic failure’ had meant that Ridgewell was not sacked by the BTP and instead was just moved to another post when his wrongdoing had first been exposed. Ridgewell’s corruption was extensive and he has been found to be responsible for other miscarriages of justice including convictions of the Oval Four, the Stockwell Six.
The surviving families of Mehmet and Peterkin are calling for a new law to be passed, which would require a police officer’s cases to be reviewed if they are convicted of an offence. Solicitor Matt Foot, from miscarriages of justice charity Appeal, representing the two men said ‘we need [Justice Secretary] Alex Chalk to introduce an immediate change in the law so that miscarriages of justice caused by corrupt police officers like Ridgewell are swiftly put right’. BTP Chief Constable, Lucy D’Orsi, said it is ‘of regret that we did not act sooner to end his criminalisation’ and that ‘BTP is committed to combating racism, which includes Afriphobia, which led to these historic cases that targeted African youths and destroyed lives.’