A member of the “Stockwell Six”, who was jailed on the word of a corrupt police officer nearly 50 years ago, has said he has finally been vindicated after his name was cleared by the Court of Appeal.
Cleveland Davidson was just 17 when he and five friends, all young black men, were arrested on the London Underground while on a night out on February 18 1972.
The Stockwell Six
The Stockwell Six were accused of attempting to rob British Transport Police officer Detective Sergeant Derek Ridgewell, who was in plain clothes, before he fought back and arrested them with a team of undercover officers.
All six pleaded not guilty, however all bar one were convicted and sent to jail or Borstal, which was a type of youth detention centre in the UK.
Three members of the Stockwell Six, Davidson, Paul Green and Courtney Harriot, finally had their names cleared by the Court of Appeal, on Tuesday 6 July 2021.
The two remaining members of the six who were convicted, Texo Joseph Johnson and Ronald De’Souza, have not yet been traced.
The case of the Stockwell Six is the third time Ridgewell’s corruption has led to wrongful convictions being overturned by the Court of Appeal.
‘50 years to rectify the injustice’
Sir Julian Flaux, sitting with Mr Justice Linden and Mr Justice Wall, said: “It is most unfortunate that it has taken nearly 50 years to rectify the injustice suffered by these appellants.”
Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London after the hearing, Davidson, now 66, said: “It’s vindication that we were innocent at the time. We were only young then, we did nothing.”
Davidson said Ridgewell was a “corrupt and wicked and evil police officer”, adding: “We don’t know how many other people Ridgewell stitched up … it’s just endless.”
Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) chairwoman Helen Pitcher said: “We are delighted that these three men have, quite rightly, had their appeals quashed in court today, which is long overdue.
“Our attention now turns to the two men we have been trying to reach for some time now who were also wrongly accused many years ago.”
“We are desperate to find other men who were part of this group of friends so many years ago.
“They too were convicted. By tracking them down we can take another step towards achieving justice and finally clear their names.”
British Transport Police Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock said: “It is wholly regrettable that the criminal actions of a discredited former officer of this force over four decades ago led to these unsound prosecutions.
“I apologise unreservedly for the distress, anxiety and impact this will have undoubtedly caused those who were wrongly convicted.
“We understand that nothing can ever make up for the period of time that they spent in custody or the longer-term effect it may have had on them.”
What other cases was Ridgewell involved in?
Ridgewell was involved in a number of high-profile and controversial cases in the early 1970s, culminating in the 1973 acquittals of the “Tottenham Court Road Two” – two young Jesuits studying at Oxford University.
He was then moved into a department investigating mailbag theft, where he joined up with two criminals with whom he split the profits of stolen mailbags.
Ridgewell was eventually caught and jailed for seven years, dying of a heart attack in prison in 1982 at the age of 37.
In January 2018, Stephen Simmons’ 1976 conviction for stealing mailbags was quashed after he discovered Ridgewell was jailed for a similar offence just two years after his own conviction.
In December 2019, three members of the “Oval Four” – who were arrested at Oval Underground station in 1972 and accused by Ridgewell’s “mugging squad” of stealing handbags – also had their convictions overturned.
Winston Trew, Sterling Christie and George Griffiths were all sentenced to two years, later reduced to eight months on appeal, following a five-week trial at the Old Bailey.
In March 2020, the final member of the Oval Four, Constantine “Omar” Boucher, also had his name cleared, prompting calls for a “wholesale review” of all cases linked to Ridgewell.
Additional reporting by PA.