New Demand for `Jekyll and Hyde' Police Inquiry

Article excerpt

Byline: Greg Lewis Investigations Reporter

A POLICE authority member said she was ``embarrassed and uncomfortable'' about the oppressive actions of some officers.

Coun Jacqui Gasson has become the first member of the South Wales Police Authority to support calls for a public inquiry into the force.

She joined justice campaigners, including Plaid AM Cynog Dafis and Cardiff North MP Julie Morgan, at the launch of a new campaign yesterday.

It was the latest bid to get Home Secretary David Blunkett to review a number of police investigations.

The Echo revealed in February that a dossier of 13 South Wales cases was to be put before Mr Blunkett.

Campaigning journalist Don Hale, the former editor of the Matlock Mercury whose work recently helped clear Stephen Downing of the murder of Wendy Sewell in 1973, also attended the launch at the Norwegian Church. Coun Gasson said she had been ``horrified'' when she heard Appeal Court judges' comments on the case of Michael O'Brien. Mr O'Brien, of the so-called Cardiff Newsagent Three, was cleared of murder after his appeal heard of ``regular and condoned malpractice'' by detectives.

Coun Gasson said: ``I am one of those people who believes the police cannot investigate themselves and because of the number of cases here I support a public inquiry.''

Nineteen National Assembly members have signed a statement of opinion supporting an inquiry into the cases, which include several high-profile murder investigations.

Mrs Morgan said she was due to discuss the dossier with the police inthe next couple of weeks and would then seek a meeting with Mr Blunkett.

She said: ``This is not in any way an attack on the police. I work closely with them in Cardiff North and in the community.

``But there are so many cases in one area it makes you think there were police practices which were not acceptable. We should have a public inquiry and then move on.''

Mr Dafis told the meeting - which was chaired by Dennis Eady of South Wales Liberty - the allegations in the dossier were ``extremely grave''. He added: ``It is important that any police officer found culpable in terms of misconduct should be identified and appropriate action taken.'' The Home Secretary has the power to initiate a public inquiry which campaigners believe would be bigger than the 1997 inquiry into the police investigation of the murdered London teenager Stephen Lawrence. The cases under the microscope are dominated by several high-profile murder investigations and cover the period from 1982 to 1997.

They include the investigations into the 1988 killing of Lynette White and the murders of Harry and Megan Tooze, who died at their Llanharry farmhouse in 1993.

Mr O'Brien, 34, who wrongfully spent more than 10 years in jail for the murder of Philip Saunders, said he was not ``anti-police''.

He said: ``I am not moaning over nothing. My life has been destroyed. ``Do the police not care about justice for people like myself and for the victims' families? …