Ministers ‘reluctant to give Andrew Malkinson inquiry full powers’

An announcement of an inquiry into Andrew Malkinson’s wrongful conviction has been delayed as ministers debate his request for it to be given powers to compel witness to appear.

The 57-year-old spent 17 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. The security guard’s conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal last month.

He has called for a statutory public inquiry into the role Greater Manchester Police (GMP), the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) played in his miscarriage of justice.

“This inquiry needs the power to compel disclosure, so that I can finally understand what went so wrong,” he said.

However, ministers are reluctant to agree to this because of the length of time the procedural and evidence-gathering process could take.

They argue that a non-statutory route could provide answers more quickly for Mr Malkinson – but it cannot take legal action against witnesses who refuse to cooperate and try to cover up failings.

Ministers aim to resolve the issue within the next 24 hours. One source said it was important to “get it right” rather than rush out an announcement.

Appeals rejected

Mr Malkinson – who always maintained his innocence – was convicted on the basis of witness evidence, with the prosecution arguing that he left no DNA because he was “forensically aware”.

Yet even though another man’s DNA that was not that of the victim’s then-boyfriend was discovered on a “crime-specific” area of her clothes in 2007, the CCRC rejected his appeals twice.

In 2009, the CPS’s head of complex casework admitted the new evidence was “surprising”.

However, he said there was no need to do any further work on the file unless the case was brought to appeal, where his focus would be on “bolstering” the case against Mr Malkinson.

The CPS is required under its own guidance to write to the CCRC “at the earliest possible opportunity about any case in which there is doubt about the safety of the conviction”.

There is, however, no record of it having passed the new evidence to the CCRC. Instead, it appears only to have told Mr Malkinson’s then legal team.

Sir Keir Starmer, who was head of the CPS from 2008, is under pressure from Tory MPs to say that he would be prepared to appear at any inquiry after telling Sky News in April he took “full responsibility for every decision of the CPS” when he was in charge. His office said that nothing about the case had crossed his desk at the CPS.

Emily Bolton, who heads his current legal team at the charity Appeal, said it was not known if the CPS contacted the CCRC in 2007-08.

However, she added: “It is obvious that a communication like this from the CPS would have carried more weight with the CCRC than an application from Andy and his previous legal representatives.”

‘They all bear responsibility’

Lord Garnier, a former solicitor general, said it was vital to establish who knew what and when, as well as who they told and “why they didn’t move this on”.

“There isn’t one of these – the GMP, CPS and CCRC – who can hide from this. They all bear responsibility for this,” he said.

He believes answers are needed swiftly, within six months, with a non-statutory inquiry backed by the Government requiring “full disclosure of all relevant papers”.

If not, officials from the three bodies could expect “public condemnation and the end of any further public career”, he said.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The Lord Chancellor has been clear he is committed to uncovering any lessons learned in Andrew Malkinson’s case. He is carefully considering how best to get the answers Mr Malkinson deserves.”

The CPS has been contacted for comment.

The debate comes as families of Lucy Letby’s victims call for a statutory public inquiry into the neonatal nurse’s killings at the Countess of Chester Hospital between 2015 and 2016.

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