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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Probe into use of supergrass in Leigh murder

23:13 |


THE use of a supergrass by Essex Police to secure a murder conviction following a gangland execution has come under scrutiny. In December, 2006, Ricky Percival was convicted of killing Dean Boshell at the Manchester Drive allotments, Leigh, in February 2001. The conviction came after Damon Alvin, who was originally charged with the murder, agreed to testify against Percival to get himself acquitted. Now the Government-funded Criminal Case Review Commission, which investigates potential miscarriages of justice, is investigating the safety of Alvin’s evidence alongside a number of unconnected cases, to see if there are any grounds for appeal. The commission is also examining three convictions of former police officers found guilty of corruption on the basis of supergrass evidence. There are also concerns the whole system of using such witnesses is so discredited it is unworkable after senior officers described it as like “dancing with the devil.” The commission is taking into account the fact Percival passed an official lie detector test at Swaleside Prison on the Isle of Sheppy, Kent, when he denied the murder. The case of Percival’s conviction is believed to be unique in that Alvin, a career criminal, was due to stand trial, but said he wanted to change his account and agreed to turn Queen’s evidence the night before. There are also concerns his evidence, which put Percival away for a minimum of 26 years, was largely uncorroborated. The commission will also look at concerns about police funding of supergrasses. It is alleged in the case of Alvin that Essex Police spent at least £35,000 in five-and-a-half months on the convicted drug dealer, who had a record for violence and burglary and a known involvement with firearms. The Observer newspaper said documents it had obtained showed expenditure included giving him £7,125 to buy a car, £468 for a laptop and £82 on an enclosure for his tortoises while he was being looked after by the police. Alvin was given a new identity as part of the witness protection programme and he and his family were relocated. The newspaper also alleged the force facilitated the sale of his home while he was in prison from which he benefited by more than £190,000. Essex Police refused to comment. Speaking to the Observer, Percival said: “I still cannot really believe what happened to me. When I first came into prison I was in some kind of intense shock: I couldn’t sleep, I was having nightmares, I was turning it all over in my mind – how could this happen in the British justice system?” His mother, Sandy Percival, added. “My son has done wrong, I know that, but he is not a murderer. There is no proof he did any of these things. It is all Alvin’s word against his.”

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