Three black men who were wrongfully jailed almost 50 years ago have had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal.
Paul Green, Courtney Harriot, and Cleveland Davidson were travelling from Stockwell tube station in 1972 when they were arrested by police. They were accused of attempting to rob British Transport Police (BTP) officer Derek Ridgewell, who was dressed in plain clothes at the time. Alongside three friends also accused of accosting Ridgewell, they came to be known as the Stockwell six.
Five of the six were convicted, although all pleaded not guilty, explaining to the jurors that the officers’ claims were lies, and that they had been threatened and treated with violence. The five, all between 17 and 20, were then sent either to jail or Borstal, a young person’s detention centre.
This was not the first time that corrupt detective Derek Ridgewell framed innocent people. In 2019, a group known as the Oval Four were found to have been wrongfully convicted after Ridgewell accused them of assault and attempted theft – only a month after framing the Stockwell six. The four men spent 8 months in prison after being arrested at Oval tube station in March 1972.
According to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, Ridgewell was known to confront young black men in tube stations, accusing them of theft and arresting them for resisting arrest. The officer was convicted of conspiracy of theft from Royal Mail in 1980, and died two years into a seven year sentence.
At the Royal Courts of Justice this Tuesday (July 6 2021), Davidson, Harriot and Green’s names were cleared. Judge Julian Flaux said: “It is most unfortunate that it has taken nearly 50 years to rectify the injustice suffered by these appellants.”
Speaking outside of the court, Cleveland Davidson called the decision “vindication that we were innocent at the time. We were only young then, we did nothing. It was a total stitch-up, it was a frame-up for nothing.”
For Jenny Wiltshire, who represented the three men in court, “These men’s entire adult lives have been blighted by false allegations made by a corrupt police officer known to have been dishonest for decades. Both the British Transport Police and the Home Office were warned about Ridgewell’s lies in 1973. Yet neither organisation did anything except move him to a different police unit.”
Adrian Hanstock, BTP’s Deputy Chief Constable, apologised for the “distress, anxiety and impact this will have undoubtedly caused,” but despite today’s ruling, Hanstock did not feel any more cases needed re-evaluating, claiming: “We have examined all available records which suggest that Ridgewell was the principal officer in other investigations and have not identified any additional matters that we feel should be referred for external review.”
Philip English, is a member of the YCL’s Manchester branch