Criminal Cases Review Commission
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Convictions quashed after persistent pro-active CCRC investigation

The convictions of two men have been quashed thanks to a persistent pro-active investigation by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

British Rail workers Basil Peterkin and Saliah Mehmet were convicted in 1977 after losses were incurred at a goods depot where they worked in south London.

The case against them was led by British Transport Police Officer DS Derek Ridgewell. Ridgewell and his colleagues DC Douglas Ellis and DC Alan Keeling later pleaded guilty to stealing from the same depot.

The cases of Mr Mehmet and Mr Peterkin were sent back to the courts by the CCRC last year after a case review manager tracked down members of their families.

The Court of Appeal today [THURSDAY 18 JANUARY] quashed the convictions.

The court heard that Ridgewell was “dishonest, corrupt, and racist.”

Lord Justice Holroyde, Vice President of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division said:

“These cases have been referred by the CCRC. The CCRC has carried out a most thorough investigation for which we are grateful.

“We express our regret, that so many years have passed. We cannot turn back the clock, but we can quash these convictions.”

Both Mr Mehmet and Mr Peterkin were sentenced to nine months in prison and protested their innocence for the rest of their lives before passing away, Mr Peterkin in August 1991 and Mr Mehhmet in August 2021.

The Court of Appeal has now quashed the convictions of 11 people on the basis of the conviction of DS Ridgewell as new evidence.

The CCRC investigation included:

  • scouring ancestry and property websites
  • reviewing physical records from the National Archives
  • considering coroner’s reports
  • contacting lawyers from the original case
  • seeking information requests from local authorities in order to contact family members.

The CCRC has carried out a range of investigations into the historical racist and corrupt practices of DS Ridgewell, who fabricated evidence that led to convictions that lasted long after his death in 1982. 

Helen Pitcher OBE, Chair of CCRC said:

“This case is another example of the thorough work the CCRC does to investigate potential miscarriages of justice.

“I urge anyone else who believes that they or a loved one, friend or acquaintance was a victim of a miscarriage of justice to contact the CCRC – particularly if DS Derek Ridgewell was involved.”

Background to the convictions

Saliah Mehmet and Basil Peterkin were two of 12 people who stood trial at the Central Criminal Court in April 1977. All apart from one were employed by British Rail at the Bricklayers Arms’ Goods Depot in south London. They were accused of stealing by re-labelling parcels to direct them to alternative addresses, and then selling the goods that were inside.

Mr Mehmet was convicted of conspiracy to steal, handing stolen goods, and two counts of theft, and Mr Peterkin was convicted of conspiracy to steal. In total eight people on trial were found guilty and four were found not guilty. Both men were convicted to nine months in prison.

The defendants all claimed that the items found in their possession had been planted, and that any admissions said to have been made by them had by fabricated by the police. 

The case was led by DS Derek Ridgewell, a British Transport Police officer who was appointed to investigate the depot along with colleagues DC Douglas Ellis and DC Alan Keeling. 

The three officers later pleaded guilty to stealing from the same depot and were sentenced to seven, six and two years in prison respectively. The three officers were said to have joined forces with a group of men to steal £364,000 worth of property from the depot.

The CCRC has made references to the Court of Appeal previously in cases where the credibility of DS Ridgewell was central to the prosecution case. To date, all eleven convictions referred back to the court have been quashed.  Anyone else who believes they might be a victim of a miscarriage of justice, convicted in a case involving Derek Ridgewell, is urged to contact the CCRC.

This press release was issued by the Communications Team, Criminal Cases Review Commission. They can be contacted by phone on: 0121 232 0900 or by email: press@ccrc.gov.uk

Notes to Editors

  1. The Peterkin and Mehmet family are represented by Matt Foot (APPEAL).
  2. The Court of Appeal previously quashed the following convictions, in addition to those of Mr Peterkin and Mr Mehmet, on the basis of the conviction of DS Ridgewell as new evidence:
  • Mr Stephen Simmons
  • Four men referred to as the Oval 4
  • Four of the six men referred to as the Stockwell 6. One man was acquitted at trial and one has not been successfully traced.
  1. The CCRC is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for finding and 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 10 Commissioners who bring to the CCRC considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice. 
  3. The CCRC 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 CCRC 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 CCRC can be found on Twitter at ccrcupdate.

 

Channel website: https://ccrc.gov.uk/

Original article link: https://ccrc.gov.uk/news/convictions-quashed-after-persistent-pro-active-ccrc-investigation/

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