Saturday, January 01, 2005

Satish Sekar

My brother has been a journalist (freelance) and researcher into miscarriages of justice for some 15 years. During that period he has worked with Paddy Hill (of the Birmingham 6), Johnny Kamara, Gareth Peirce, Mike Mansfied QC, Paul Foot and many other victims of miscarriages of justice or lawyers and journalists working in this area.

His most well-known case (and a truly extraordinary story on its own account) is the Cardiff Three. In synopsis, Lynette White, a prostitute in the Cardiff Butetown district, was brutally killed with over 50 stab wounds in 1988. There was a wealth of forensic evidence and the police were initially pursuing a white suspect seen walking away from the area with a large amount of blood on him, which they publicised on Critmewatch. Several months later 5 black men were arrested and charged, and three, after the longest murder trial in British history, were convicted in November 1990. In 1992 the three were freed on appeal
(reported as R v Paris 97 Cr.App.R. 99, CA, still a leading authority on oppression in interviews).

Despite being freed on appeal doubts were still expressed in the press that the Three had been freed on a "technicality", which were not helped by the South Wales Police's refusal to re-open the investigation. Satish, working with the three men and the victim's family campaigned for a full re-investigation and wrote about the case and subsequent developments in his acclaimed book "Fitted In", published in 1998.

As a result of his campaigning, including a long series of meetings with, and suggestions to, the police as to how the real killer could be found using new DNA techniques,
eventually the South Wales Police re-opened the investigation in June 1999 and in January 2002 a re-screening of the original DNA samples provided usable results. In 2003 a suspect was identified. who was arrested and charged, and eventually convicted in July 2003 (Guardian story). It was the first time in British legal history that a miscarriage of justice case had been resolved and the true killer found and to date it is still the only case where this has happened. It is also the only case I know of where the victim's family and the victims of the miscarriage of justice have joined forces to prove the innocence of those originally convicted of the offence by finding the actual perpetrator and proving the adage that the only person who gains by innocent people being convicted is the actual perpetrator. It is also the case that lead to South Wales Police pioneering a new approach to major crime scene investigations and unsolved homicides, much of which was the basis of ACPO's guidelines on homicide investigations. Finally, following convictions in 2008 for perjury of three civilian witnesses identified by my brother as having given incorrect testimony at the two Cardiff 3 trials (at the time it was the most expensive case in Wales) in March 2009 13 serving and former officers of the South Wales Force were arrested and charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice along with a further two civilian witnesses (Guardian article).

Other notable cases Satish has worked on include Satpal Ram and Mills and Poole (another extraordinary case reported as Mills (Gary) and Poole (Anthony Keith) [1998] Crim.L.R. 64, HL), and eventually resulting in their being freed in the Court of Appeal in 2003 on a reference from the Criminal Cases Review Commission, 13 years after their original convictions - article). He has advised the Mayor of London's office on issues around policing and criminal justice and I would describe him as the best expert non-expert (in the legal sense) on DNA in Britain. He has also written on
other forensic issues such as the preservation of crime scenes for the purpose of securing forensic evidence and been involved in ground-breaking work on the accurate dating of fires from plant analysis and forensic entomology.