Jubilation in court as care workers freed

ON FRIDAY 14 MARCH, in the solemn surroundings of the High Court in London, the friends and supporters of two Merseyside care workers rose to their feet to cheer and applaud as Mr Justice Kennedy announced that the men's convictions were unsafe. The standing ovation continued for almost a minute in the packed court, although it was more than an hour before the two men, Basil Williams-Rigby and Mike Lawson, emerged downstairs for a tearful reunion with their family and friends

Saturday's papers almost all carried news stories about the case. Bob Woffinden's report appeared in the
Guardian while Rosie Waterhouse covered the case in two stories for the the Telegraph (1)  and  (2), the latter giving a disturbing insight into the effect of these wrongful convictions on the men's families.  Robert Verkaik, who wrote a piece anticipating


“My feeling is one of exhilaration. It has been three years and seven months. I have counted the days. Our long march for freedom has finished. But we will be starting another long march to stop others being caught up by similar trawling operations. There are hundreds of innocent people in prison because of it. This method can never be justified.”
Basil Williams-Rigby

the verdict in yesterday's  Independent, followed his story up  with another report, and the Times had a good piece by Helen Rumbelow.
Niall Watson's television report is available on the BBC website. 

On Friday afternoon, in one of the most moving interviews which has been broadcast on radio for a long time, the two men told their story on  BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

On Sunday the Telegraph published Alasdair Palmer's excellent article, which was based in


“If you're accused of an imaginary crime, allegedly committed on an unspecified date years ago, then of course it's virtually impossible to defend yourself other than truthfully saying it didn't happen. When I was a detective, if a murder had been committed, you'd set out to find who'd done it. But in these cases the police are actively soliciting complaints by sending letters to people in prison. Sadly some of these chaps are succumbing to the temptation. . . I don’t feel bitter but feel sorry for those who have told lies; they have been tempted by the system.”
                                                                                             Mike Lawson


part on an interview which he conducted with Basil Williams-Rigby in prison before his release.


Reproduced below is the text of the trawling letter sent out by Merseyside Police in September 1997 which helped to snare David Jones, Mike Lawson and Basil Williams-Rigby in a web of false allegations:

Dear ---------


I am the senior investigating officer of the above operation which is currently investigating allegations of child abuse reported to have taken place within a number of residential establishments in the Merseyside area.

I am aware from records provided to me that in times past you have been a resident at XXXX School in XXXX, whilst in the care of a local authority. I am concerned that there is a possibility that such abuse may have taken place whilst you were in residence there.

If you have any information or if we can help with any complaint you may have, please respond by completing and returning the attached slip using the enclosed pre-paid envelope or by contacting a member of my staff using the above telephone number.


Thank you for your assistance in this matter. 

Yours faithfully,

J. H. Robbins, Detective Superintendent


© Richard Webster, 2003



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