asked the Attorney-General why the facts of the innocence of Mr. George Lindo were withheld from his solicitors by the Registrar of Criminal Appeals and by the Director of Public Prosecutions; and if he will take steps to ensure that a similar situation does not arise again.
[pursuant to his reply, 18 April 1980, c. 746]: I now give the following information:
On 15 February 1978 Mr. George Lindo was convicted of an offence of robbery committed on 3 August 1977. He immediately lodged a notice of appeal.
On 7 November 1978, in a letter to the Court of Appeal concerning other aspects of Mr. Lindo's appeal, the deputy chief constable of the West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police informed the court that the police were investigating allegations against one of the police officers who gave evidence at Mr. Lindo's trial, that he had manufactured statements in another, unconnected inquiry. On 5 December 1978 the deputy chief constable wrote again to say that the investigations into this officer's conduct had been completed and the papers had been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for him to consider whether or not any offences of forgery were disclosed. The deputy chief constable pointed out that this officer had not himself taken any statement from Mr. Lindo, being the junior in a team of three; and stipulated that the information given should remain confidential to the Registrar and should in no circumstances be disclosed to the defence.
On 8 December 1978 the Director of Public Prosecutions received the report of the investigation from the deputy chief constable. One paragraph of the report mentioned a complaint made by Mr. Lindo's solicitors, that the officer was one of three instrumental in obtaining admissions from Mr. Lindo under duress.
At the hearing of Mr. Lindo's application for bail on 18 January 1979, Mr. Justice Phillips gave instructions that the directions of the Lord Chief Justice be taken on the letter of 5 December 1978. At the beginning of February the Registrar was consulted personally for the first time and immediately, after referring to the Lord Chief Justice, invited the Director of Public Prosecutions to take over the case for the Crown and to consider disclosure to Mr. Lindo's advisers of the information received from the police.
The Director called for all the police papers forthwith, consulted prosecuting counsel and then informed defence solicitors of the position, and assisted in arranging a further application for bail which was successfully made unopposed on 8 March. On 8 June the conviction was quashed.
In cases of this sort, it is not open to the Registrar to act as an investigator. The proper course is to refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions. If the Registrar had been informed personally of the letter of 5 December on its receipt, he would have taken such action forthwith. He has instructed his staff to be alert to any indications in papers received of fresh evidence or information which casts doubt on the safety of a conviction and to inform him immediately if such material has come to light.
The Director's view, which he has expressed to the deputy chief constable, is that any factor which could cast doubt on the evidence an officer is to give, or has given, in any proceedings, should immediately be brought to the attention of the solicitor or counsel who has, or had, the conduct of the prosecution for advice as to what action should be taken.