Richard Munro behind bars: Conviction a legal first
A disgraced policeman, who was found guilty of hiding evidence of a murder case which jailed two innocent men, has been sentenced to five years.
John McManus, director of the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (MOJO), believes that this is a very significant case. “It’s the first time in British history that a police officer has been found guilty in relation to a miscarriage of justice.”
Richard Munro, 53, now retired, was found guilty of attempting to defeat the ends of justice at the High Court in Edinburgh on June 22.
Steven Johnston and Billy Allison were found guilty of the murder of Andrew Forsyth in 1995, and spent 10 years fighting their innocence. They were finally released after the pair’s defence lawyers managed to prove in an Appeal Court hearing in March 2006 that Munro acted illegally.
The two men were released on bail just before Christmas of 2005, and it wasn’t until March 2006 that Johnston and Allison’s convictions were finally quashed by the Appeal Court judges.
The former Chief Superintendent withheld information that could have helped Johnston and Allison’s defence. He suppressed witness statements which proved that the victim was still alive, the date Johnston and Allison were supposed to have a connection with the death. There were as many as 11 witnesses who gave statements that Forsyth was still alive, which also disappeared.
However, the news was not a shock to Steven Johnston. “This is something that I have known for years. It’s not something that I’ve only discovered recently, I found out that something was going on in 1996. I had an idea that he had hidden some evidence, but I never knew it to what extent.
“When I was interviewed by Munro, he made a comment that stuck with me. He said, word for word, that he would ‘make this the easiest case the Edinburgh High court has ever seen'. I just had this feeling, but I never thought he would go as far as hiding a statement.
"I couldn’t understand why he was going against us, rather than helping us. I felt anger, bitterness. I couldn’t understand why this man went out of his way to hide evidence. It was frustrating.”
The investigation of Andrew Forsyth's killing was the first time Munro had been put in charge of a murder case. It has been reported that Munro “lacked training, managerial experience and had been mislead by junior colleagues".
This was not the only time Munro was involved in police corruption. Munro was suspended in 2004 after revelations of a connection with a prostitute. Also, Munro was working for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Aberdeen when he lost his wallet and warrant card. He claimed he was mugged, resulting in the arrest of two teenage boys aged 17 and 19, but no charges were made. The police detective, who was earning £60,000, retired with a full police pension.
It is still unknown who committed the brutal murder of Andrew Forsyth, which took place in the victim's flat in Dunfermline. “When a case like this happens, people forget that, for 16 years there has been a killer walking the streets, all thanks to this police officer,” said McManus. Despite this, there has been no word on the case being re-opened.
The human rights group, Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, has been fighting this case for eight years, and are asking for a public inquiry. “Not for vengeance, but to make sure this never happens again,” the MOJO director explained.
Whilst he is pleased with the outcome on this occasion, McManus has stressed that this is not an isolated case. The majority of miscarriages of justice are due to police corruption, he claims. “This will hopefully send the message out to police officers everywhere that the law applies to everyone and they are not above the law.”
Johnston believes that more awareness must be raised, and he thinks Munro’s case will do that: “Now that Munro has been sentenced, I think the floodgates are suddenly going to open.”
For more information on Steven Johnston and Billy Allison’s case, visit http://www.miscarriagesofjustice.org/
By Kaitlin McManus