‘Wrongful conviction’ of ex-West Yorkshire Pc prompts new criminal probe

Former West Yorkshire Police officer Danny Major. 31st January 2016. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe
Former West Yorkshire Police officer Danny Major. 31st January 2016. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe
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A damning report into the suspected wrongful conviction of a former West Yorkshire Police officer for assaulting a teenager in custody has prompted a criminal investigation into the events that led to him being sent to prison.

The Operation Lamp dossier into the case of Danny Major, who was convicted in 2006 of the attack at a Leeds custody suite, was described by a senior official as the most “explosive” he has seen in nearly 30 years.

Former West Yorkshire Police officer Danny Major. 31st January 2016. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

Former West Yorkshire Police officer Danny Major. 31st January 2016. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

It has now emerged that Greater Manchester Police, the force that carried out the two-year investigation, is carrying out a second probe to establish whether the case raises any criminal or misconduct issues.

And the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which examines suspected miscarriages of justice, is more than five months into a review of Mr Major’s case before deciding whether to refer it to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Major, a father-of-two, was convicted by a jury on two counts of common assault after being accused of attacking a drunken 18-year-old in custody following his arrest at Millgarth police station in Leeds in 2003.

He and his family have been campaigning to have his conviction overturned since he was released from jail in 2007. Challenges at the Court of Appeal and an earlier application to the CCRC were unsuccessful.

When approached by The Yorkshire Post, West Yorkshire Police said it asked Greater Manchester Police to carry out a second review in February “to investigate whether, in their view, there are any criminal and / or misconduct matters to answer”.

A force spokeswoman declined to reveal the terms of reference for the new investigation, how many GMP officers were involved or provide any information about which West Yorkshire Police officers were under scrutiny.

She said: “No time scale has been set for the investigation. What is more important is that the investigation goes into as much detail as possible in order to ensure all the parties concerned feel reassured that it has been carried out fairly.”

It is understood that the CCRC, which looked into Mr Major’s case prior to Operation Lamp being launched, has had the latest application under active review since late March.

A spokesman for the CCRC said: “The case remains under active review. We are in contact with Greater Manchester Police and the authors of Operation Lamp. We are keeping the complainant informed of our progress.”

As reported in The Yorkshire Post, the Operation Lamp report said the jury which convicted Mr Major would have based their decision on the evidence presented by the prosecution, which stated Mr Major pulled Mr Rimington out of a police van face first at the Bridewell custody suite in Leeds and punched him three times in the face.

The prosecution also claimed Mr Major later repeatedly punched the teenager in the face while he was handcuffed in a police cell. Mr Major denied both allegations.

The report’s authors found new witnesses whose evidence undermined the prosecution’s claims and suggested Mr Major’s version of events was “factually more reliable”.

GMP detectives were also told that the pattern of blood found on the defendant’s clothes did not tally with an account of the alleged police cell assault.

The 500-page report was heavily critical of the investigation carried out by West Yorkshire Police’s professional standards department that resulted in Mr Major’s conviction after a re-trial.

It said potentially vital evidence was not disclosed to the defence team or was sent over too late. Of the six VHS cassettes showing CCTV footage of the areas where the alleged assaults took place, only two were examined.

Earlier this year, Ian Hanson, chairman of the Greater Manchester Police Federation, who is representing the Major family, described Operation Lamp as being “an explosive report the like of which I have never seen in 28 years in policing”.