‘Oval Four’ men cleared nearly 50 years after convictions
Three black men who were convicted on the evidence of a corrupt police officer nearly 50 years ago have had their names cleared by senior judges.
Winston Trew and Sterling Christie, now both 69, and George Griffiths, now 67, were arrested along with Constantine "Omar" Boucher at Oval Underground station in 1972.
Mr Trew has urged anyone else who might have been wrongfully convicted on the evidence of the corrupt police officer to challenge their convictions.
He said outside the Royal Courts of Justice: "They should come forward and contact the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC)."
He added: "If you are innocent, don't give up."
Mr Boucher has not been cleared because the CCRC has been unable to trace him.
Police had accused the men, who became known as the "Oval Four", of stealing handbags.
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They were arrested by a patrol known as "the mugging squad", which was set up to target thefts on the Northern Line.
The patrol was led by Detective Sergeant Derek Ridgewell of the British Transport Police, who was later jailed for seven years for conspiracy to steal.
The four men were convicted of attempted theft and assaulting police.
Mr Christie was also found guilty of the theft of a handbag after a five-week trial at the Old Bailey.
All four were jailed for two years, later reduced to eight months on appeal.
But Mr Trew, Mr Christie and Mr Griffiths' cases were referred to the Court of Appeal by the CCRC earlier this year after another conviction involving Ridgewell was overturned last January.
The Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Mrs Justice McGowan and Sir Roderick Evans, quashed the three men's convictions at a brief hearing in London on Thursday.
Lord Burnett said there was "an accumulating body of evidence that points to the fundamental unreliability of evidence given by DS Ridgewell … and others of this specialist group".
The judge said it was "clear that these convictions are unsafe", adding: "We would wish only to note our regret that it has taken so long for this injustice to be remedied."
Mr Christie said: "I wish to thank everyone who supported us over the years in trying to right this miscarriage of justice, those who attended meetings, raised funds and distributed leaflets from various organisations.
"I would also like to thank my family and friends who have always supported us and known the truth about these convictions."
Mr Christie and Mr Griffiths' solicitor Jenny Wiltshire welcomed the decision, but said it was "deeply concerning that it has taken so long to happen".