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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 19:16 GMT
Care workers cleared of abuse
Freed former care workers Basil Williams-Rigby (right) and Michael Lawson
The men called for a change in police investigation guidelines
Two former care home workers who were jailed for 19 years between them for alleged child abuse have been freed by the Court of Appeal.

Basil Williams-Rigby, 57, was released on Friday after he was sentenced in 1999 at Liverpool Crown Court to 12 years in prison.

Michael Lawson, 62, was freed after being jailed in June 2000 for seven years.

The court was also told some of the complainants may have been motivated by possible compensation payouts.

Both men were investigated under the same police operation that led to ex-Southampton Football Club manager Dave Jones being tried and later acquitted on abuse charges.

'Uncorroborated' evidence

The men had worked at the same approved school and were arrested by Merseyside Police in Operation Care.

The operation was one of the largest inquiries into allegations of abuse in children's homes across five local authorities in the 1970s and 1980s.

During the appeal by Mr Williams-Rigby and Mr Lawson, their lawyers claimed they were convicted on uncorroborated evidence of complainants.

Lord Justice Kennedy, Mr Justice Crane and Mr Justice McCombe then ruled the convictions of Mr Williams-Rigby and Mr Lawson were "unsafe".

Following the decision one of the mens' supporters said in a statement: "The decisions...to overturn the convictions...are a turning point.

'Feeling exhilarated'

"This has been a three-and-a-half-year campaign waged by the families and friends of all those caught up in the trawling nets of police operations gathering historical allegations of abuse in children's care homes".

Mr Williams-Rigby later said "I feel exhilaration."

Mr Lawson, a former police officer, said: "It is wonderful to be free and back with my family."

Both men called for guidelines and safeguards to be introduced covering "trawling" investigations.

A Merseyside Police spokeswoman said the appeal judges' had not criticised the force or Operation Care.

She said: "The appeal was allowed on fresh evidence not available at the time of the first trial and judicial process."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Niall Dickson
"These former care workers had had their reputations destroyed, their lives ruined"



SEE ALSO:
Ex-football manager cleared
05 Dec 00 |  UK News
Facing false allegations
30 Oct 02 |  Politics


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