Three men who were convicted and imprisoned on the evidence of a corrupt police officer nearly 50 years ago have had their sentences overturned by judges.
Winston Trew and Sterling Christie, both 69, and George Griffiths, 67, were among a group - known as the “Oval Four” - who were arrested at Oval underground station in south London in March 1972.
They each served eight months of a two-year prison sentence for allegedly assaulting a police officer and stealing handbags on the Northern Line.
But Mr Trew, Mr Christie and Mr Griffiths’ cases were referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) earlier this year after another conviction involving Ridgewell was overturned last January.
At a hearing on Thursday in London, the men’s convictions were overturned - because it was “clear that the convictions are unsafe”.
Lord Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice, said: “We would wish only to note our regret that it has taken so long for this injustice to be remedied.”
The men, along with fourth suspect Constantine “Omar” Boucher, were arrested by a patrol known as “the mugging squad”, led by Detective Sergeant Derek Ridgewell.
Plainclothes police officers accused them of "stealing handbags” - but a fight broke out when officers refused to produce identification at the group’s request.
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Mr Trew told the BBC: "We were given a good hiding there to confess to things we didn't do.”
But Ridgewell was later jailed for seven years for conspiracy to steal from Royal Mail. He died in prison in 1982, aged 37, after suffering a heart attack.
In a statement after the hearing, Mr Trew said: “I wish to express my gratitude to the CCRC and in particular, to my case officer, Anona Bisping, for the excellent and detailed work submitted by her in this dated and complex case.”
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.”
His and Mr Griffiths’ solicitor Jenny Wiltshire of Hickman & Rose welcomed the decision, but said it was “deeply concerning that it has taken so long to happen”.
She added: “Both the British Transport Police and the Home Office were warned about this police officer’s corrupt methods in 1973.
“They did nothing except move him to a different unit, where he continued to offend so that by 1980 he was serving a seven-year prison sentence for theft.
“But even then the police did not think to review his past cases. Had they done so, these innocent men’s lives would likely have been very different.”