Britain's top prosecutor has expressed extreme concern after the collapse of a police corruption trial over the wrongful conviction of three men for the murder of prostitute Lynette White.
Trial judge Justice Sweeney discharged the jury at Swansea Crown Court after ruling that the eight accused former police officers could not get a fair trial. The eight were jointly charged along with two civilians in the biggest trial of its kind involving former police officers in UK criminal history.
But Simon Clements, the Crown Prosecution Service's reviewing lawyer, said the case collapsed after a review discovered that files had been destroyed.
Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC has been notified and is "extremely concerned" about the outcome, the CPS said.
The officers were alleged to have colluded to pervert the course of justice, leading to the jailing of three innocent men. Prostitute Miss White, 20, was stabbed more than 50 times at her flat in the docks area of Cardiff in 1988.
Mr Clements said prosecutors were satisfied before the trial that "this was a case which should go before a jury".
He said: "However, at the request of the judge on 28 November, a review by the prosecution of a certain section of the unused material has uncovered that some copies of files, originally reviewed but not considered discloseable at that time, were missing. This information related to complaints made by one of the original defendants to the IPCC and another complaint relating to the investigation.
"On inquiry, it was found that these copies had been destroyed and no record of the reason for their destruction had been made by the police officers concerned. This was the first time that prosecution counsel or the CPS had been made aware of this destruction
"Although this relates to copies and not original files, it is now impossible to say for certain whether the copy was in fact exactly the same material that had been provided by the IPCC, reviewed and then destroyed. The destruction of those copies, along with the non-recording of the destruction, meant that it would be impossible to give meaningful re-assurances that no other material had been treated similarly, thus undermining the defence's confidence in the disclosure process.
"Given the stage reached in the proceedings, the correct course of action is to offer no evidence, thus inviting verdicts of not guilty and ending the trial."