The final member of the Oval Four, who were wrongly convicted of a mugging on the London Underground almost 50-years ago, has finally had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal.
Constantine ‘Omar’ Boucher, was one of four young, black men who were jailed in 1972 after being found guilty of stealing handbags at Oval Tube station in south London.
Winston Trew, Sterling Christie and George Griffith all had their convictions quashed in December after the miscarriage of justice was finally exposed.
But Mr Boucher, who now lives in the United States, could not be traced and so was not part of the original appeal.
Following publicity about the case, however, Mr Boucher, came forward and at a special telephone hearing at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, was finally absolved of guilt over the crime.
Lord Justice Fulford, Mrs Justice Carr and Mr Justice Goss appeared in person at today’s Court of Appeal hearing but agreed to hear legal representations by telephone due to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
The Oval Four, as they became known, were arrested in March 1972 by a specialist anti-mugging unit of the British Transport Police (BTP), commanded by Detective Sergeant Derek Ridgewell - a corrupt officer who had previously worked with the Southern Rhodesian police force.
After being forced to sign false confessions, the four went on trial at the Old Bailey, where they were convicted and jailed for two years - later reduced to eight months on appeal.
Ridgwell's anti-mugging unit was involved in a string of similarly controversial cases, including the Stockwell Six and The Waterloo Four.
But in 1980 Ridgwell himself was convicted of conspiracy to steal mailbags and he died in jail two years later at the age of 37.
The Oval Four case was referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission after Mr Trew, a retired university professor, wrote a book exposing the miscarriage of justice.
Jenny Wiltshire of Hickman & Rose solicitors, who represented Mr Boucher said: "My client is grateful to the court for agreeing to hold this hearing under difficult circumstances. Having spent 48 years unfairly labelled a criminal, he was keen to have this heard as soon as possible. The court clearly agreed and conducted the hearing by telephone.
"While it is happy news that Mr Boucher's conviction has now been quashed, the fact that it has taken nearly so long is very concerning. The British Transport Police and the Home Office have known about the police officer's corruption for decades. Yet they have done little to right his wrongs.
"DS Ridgewell was first denounced as corrupt in 1973. He was imprisoned in 1980. The BTP could have re-examined his cases then. But they didn't. They instead left it to his victims to try and work out for themselves exactly how they had been set up, and to gather the evidence they needed to prove their innocence.
"In my view the BTP should now conduct a wholesale review of all this officer's cases. It seems to me very likely that there may be many other victims of his corruption.”