Police abandon massive trawling operation as judges listen to evidence of injustice
THE APPEALS OF Basil Williams Rigby and Mike Lawson, the two former care workers whose cases were heard in the high court on 17 and 18 February, have not yet been decided. After a two-day hearing attended by some fifty friends, relatives and supporters of the two men, judgment was reserved.
Some two years ago Rebecca Williams Rigby
described to BBC reporter Paul Vickers the moment when she finally
realised her father was going to prison. 'He said
"how can I prove my innocence?" and I just hugged him and said "you can't, Dad".
Then I knew for certain that he wasn't coming home.'
'What people don't realise,' she says, 'is that this is something which is with you all the time. It's with you in the morning when you wake up and it's with you at night when you go to bed. It's been six years now since the case against Michael first started up, six long years. We've done everything we can. All we can do now is just wait, hope and pray.'
The two former care workers each had their own legal team at the Appeal Court. Basil Williams Rigby was represented by solicitor Chris Saltrese and by Patrick Cosgrove, the QC who acted for Newcastle nursery nurse Dawn Reed at the 1994 criminal trial in which she was acquitted. As reported by the Liverpool Daily Post, he told the court that at his trial Williams-Rigby had been put in a situation where the burden of proof was reversed and he effectively had to prove his innocence.
'Where the defence was able to deploy any evidence independent of the appellant to contradict the evidence of a complainant, the jury acquitted of all allegations,' he said. 'Where the defence was not able to do so, the jury convicted.'
Iain Goldrein QC, representing Mike Lawson, said that evidence which was prejudicial to Lawson's defence had been wrongly put before the jury. They had been told about the many arrests resulting from Operation Care but were never informed that, subsequently, many of the charges were dropped.
'They must have thought the place was a den of iniquity,' he said
Both men once worked in the same children's home as
former Southampton football manager David Jones, who was
cleared of all allegations against him in December 2000. Jones's
trial had collapsed after his solicitors found witnesses who were prepared to
testify that some of the complainants in his trial had admitted they had
fabricated allegations against him in order to obtain compensation.
But last week, as lawyers were still putting
forward their arguments in the Appeal Court, Claire Curtis-Thomas MP, who was
seated in the public gallery, was able to pass a note to the Williams Rigby
legal team containing news of a dramatic decision just taken by Merseyside
Police. Operation Care, once regarded as the model for police investigations of
'historic' abuse allegations,
was to be axed.
© Richard Webster, 2002