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Tuesday, October 26, 1999 Published at 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK


Police 'torture' man has convictions quashed

Keith Twitchell says he may sue the police

A man who said he confessed to manslaughter and robbery charges after being "tortured" by police officers has had his convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Father-of-two Keith Twitchell said members of the now defunct West Midlands Serious Crime Squad handcuffed him to a chair and placed a plastic bag over his head.

And after the hearing, Mr Twitchell said he was considering suing the police for damages, adding: "I think there are things to be addressed. It's not over now."

The judgement came a fortnight short of the 19th anniversary of Mr Twitchell's interrogation.

During the hearing, Stephen Solley QC, for Mr Twitchell, conceded that his client had committed serious crimes before and been punished for them.

Then in 1980 he was "plucked catastrophically" from a new life with his partner Denise Lowe and her son.

'Officers broke his resolve'

Mr Solley said: "What this court is considering is a scenario of torture that beggars belief."

Mr Twitchell recalled that approximately eight or nine police officers handcuffed his wrists to the back legs of the chair he was sitting on.

A plastic bag was placed over his head and pressed against his nose and mouth, and then removed.

Mr Solley said: "The procedure was repeated a number of times, until finally his resolve was totally dissolved and he agreed to sign the statement put in front of him."

After the hearing, Mr Twitchell's solicitor, Gareth Beynon, said the behaviour of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad would have come to light earlier if his client's allegations had been investigated when he first raised them.

'Lamentable history'

He said: "Torture is not too strong a word for what happened. Mr Twitchell is innocent of his crime. He has served twelve and a quarter years for a crime he did not commit."

Lord Justice Rose said there was before the court "yet another appeal arising from the lamentable history of the now disbanded West Midlands Serious Crime Squad".

During the 1980s "a significant number of police officers in that squad, some of whom rose to very senior rank, behaved outrageously, and in particular extracted confessions by grossly improper means, amounting in some cases to torture," he said.

But he stressed the task of the appeal court was not to proclaim the guilt or innocence of either Mr Twitchell or the police officers, but only to assess the safety or otherwise of the conviction.

After the ruling, Mr Twitchell criticised the judges for not taking a broader look at the activities of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad.

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