Tainted evidence from supergrass leads to overturned conviction of another West Midlands Serious Crime Squad Case
Two men sentenced to a total of 24 years following investigations by the discredited West Midlands Serious Crime Squad had their convictions quashed at the Court of Appeal yesterday.
Christopher Hagans and John Wilson were alleged to have been members of the Thursday Gang, a group of armed robbers who operated across Birmingham and the Black Country in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The pair were convicted in 1983 following evidence from former gang member turned supergrass Richard Mackay.
Mr Hagans, from Kingstanding, Birmingham, was sentenced to 14 years for his involvement in a post office robbery in Bristol and possessing a sawn-off shotgun.
Mr Wilson, from Edgbaston, was sentenced to ten years for armed robbery.
The pair always denied their involvement and fought to clear their names after being released.
Both applied to the Birmingham-based Criminal Cases Review Commission to re-examine their convictions and the cases were referred to the Court of Appeal last year.
The appeal was based on the unreliability of evidence given by Mackay, which has been discredited in other Court of Appeal cases.
Alleged Thursday Gang members Michael Dunne, Patrick Gaughan, Donald and Ronald Brown, who were also convicted on evidence given by Mackay, had their convictions quashed by the Appeal Court in 2001.
At that hearing Lord Justice Rose said evidence of police officers and Mackay and fellow gangland supergrass Keith Morgan “can no longer be regarded as credible.”
Yesterday’s successful appeal was not opposed by the Crown Prosecution Service. The court did not give reasons for its judgment, which is expected to be published at a future date.
Mr Hagans, now 54, was arrested in 1982 charged with seven robberies around the country.
All the charges were dropped, except the Bristol robbery, although he claimed not to know where Bristol was.
The father-of-six served nine years of the 14-year sentence he was given at Leicester Crown Court.
Mr Hagans said he missed seeing his children grow up and will now apply for compensation.
When his case was referred, Mr Hagans said: “I went in a young man and I came out an old man, the kids all grown up and I missed that.”
His solicitor, Ewen Smith of Birmingham law firm Glaisyers, said: “If the evidence of Richard Mackay is tainted, the remaining evidence presented by the prosecution at the the trial is not enough to preserve the safety of the conviction.”
So far more than 40 people [as of 2003 – the number is now much higher] imprisoned as a result of the squad’s activities have had their convictions overturned.
Set up in 1974 to combat the most dangerous offenders in the region, it was disbanded in 1989 by the then West Midlands Chief Constable Geoffrey Dear after allegations that detectives had fabricated evidence. No officers from the squad have been convicted of any offence and compensation claims have so far cost an estimated £12 million.
(Retrieved from ICBirmingham.co.uk, 22 October 2003)