Three black men who were jailed nearly 50 years ago for allegedly trying to rob a corrupt police officer have had their convictions overturned today (July 6).
Courtney Harriot, Paul Green and Cleveland Davidson were arrested along with three others after leaving Stockwell station in 1972 after being accused of trying to rob Derek Ridgewell, a British Transport Police (BTP) Officer.
Why were the men arrested?
Six men, including Harriot, Green and Davidson, were arrested while travelling on the London Underground from Stockwell station in south London in 1972.
All were between 17 and 20 at the time and later became known as the “Stockwell Six” in preceding court cases.
Ridgewell claimed the men attempted to rob him, with the officer saying he fought back then arrested the men along with a team of undercover officers.
All six men pleaded not guilty to the charges, but five were convicted and sent to jail or borstal in spite of telling jurors that the allegations were false and that police had subjected them to violence and threats.
The men were convicted largely on evidence provided by Ridgewell himself, who was later discovered to be a corrupt officer.
Who is Derek Ridgewell?
Derek Ridgewell was a BTP Officer at the time that the men were arrested and had previously served in the South Rhodesian (now Zimbabwean) police force.
Ridgewell was involved in a series of controversial, high-profile cases in the early 1970s.
He was moved into a department investigating mailbag theft, but joined up with two criminals to split the profits of stolen bags.
Eventually he was caught and jailed for seven years before dying of a heart attack in prison in 1982, aged 37.
What other cases was Ridgewell involved in?
The Stockwell Six case marks the third time Ridgewell’s corrupt activities led to wrongful convictions being overturned at the Court of Appeal.
In 1972, four people - the “Oval Four” - were accused of stealing handbags by Ridgewell’s “mugging squad” in Oval Underground station.
In 2019, three out of the four had their convictions overturned, followed by the fourth being overturned in 2020.
The overturned conviction in 2020 prompted calls for a “wholesale review” of any cases linked to the corrupt officer.
What happened to the other three members of the Stockwell Six?
The sixth member, Everet Mullins, was the only one acquitted after being arrested in the 70s.
The other two men who were convicted, Texo Joseph Johnson and Ronald De'Souza, are yet to be traced.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which referred the convictions to the Court of Appeal, said it was desperate to “find other men who were part of this group of friends so many years ago".
Sir Julian Flaux, the judge who quashed the convictions, said:
"It is most unfortunate that it has taken nearly 50 years to rectify the injustice suffered by these appellants."
BTP Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock said: "It is wholly regrettable that the criminal actions of a discredited former officer of this force over four decades ago led to these unsound prosecutions.
"I apologise unreservedly for the distress, anxiety and impact this will have undoubtedly caused those who were wrongly convicted."