Justice Denied: The Danny Major Stitch Up

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In five episodes, a number of individuals subjected to miscarriages of justice in England tell their stories the country’s justice system.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Narration: ( Michael Doherty)

Britain has been rocked by scandal upon scandal from it’s police force. The organisation has been repeatedly found wanting when it comes to stamping out corrupt and criminal behaviour in its ranks. My name is Michael Doherty. I’m a civil liberties campaigner and founder of Justice Now. I seek to bring about fundamental change to the systems of police accountability in the UK. Danny Major was a police officer.He fell victim to what appears to be a cover up by West Yorkshire police in the North of England. He was convicted of violently assaulting a man in a police cell despite a suspicious amount of missing evidence. Over time more and more facts have emerged that contradict his accusers' stories, yet Danny still struggles to clear his name. But his parents stand by him in his fight.

Eric Major:

It's not coincidence, it's not mistake, it's a planned and criminal conspiracy. The course of justice has been perverted, because the wrong man was sent to prison.

Danny Major's Mother:

We've got to feel safe, and I can take a corrupt police officer, no problem. I cannot take the fact that the organisation which we call the police force is corrupt, I can't stomach that at all.

Michael Doherty:

Danny's father spent 31 years in the police force, giving his all to uphold the law, even sustaining some serious injuries during his career. This did not dissuade Danny though, and after finishing university he decided to join West Yorkshire Police.

Michael Doherty:

How did you feel when you got accepted to be joining the policeman

Danny Major:

Quite proud to be able to do something that my dad had done. Thought it was a noble job to do, working within the community in which I lived, and it was going to be something that I'd be able to make a career of.

Michael Doherty:

Danny proved himself to be a capable officer, and received a special commendation for arresting a drug dealer whilst off duty. Though he felt it was simply part of the job of being an officer. At this stage in his career Danny had never witnessed corruption or serious misconduct amongst his fellow officers. This made what happened next all the more shocking for him. Danny took me to see the locations that would change his life forever and end his career. In September 2003 he would find a young man here, too drunk to look after himself.

Michael Doherty:

Could you please describe how you first came across him and what transpired

Danny Major:

Yeah, I first came across Rimmington a little earlier on in the evening over by the entrance on the far side there. That's where I found him drunk and directed him inside with the police community support officers.

Later on in the evening is when I went into the help desk which is just behind me over my left shoulder, and that's later on where Rimmington was arrested and also where I was assaulted and then he was removed and placed in the rear of a police van situated just behind me, parked roughly where the Mondeo is now.

Michael Doherty:

During the course of that arrest you were assaulted by Mr Rimmington, could you please explain in a little more detail what actually happened there

Danny Major:

Yeah of course, when I first placed a handcuff on Mr Rimmington to inform him he was under arrest he punched me in the face repeatedly and struggled very violently, and was subsequently arrested with the assistance of several other officers.

Narration:

This is the point at which Danny's account of events begins to differ from that of other police officers who were present that night. This is where the first of three allegations of assault comes in. 2Allegation 1. Made by PC David Oldroyd. After getting Sean Rimmington into the back of the police van Danny Major kicked him in the ribs multiple times with enough force to shake the van. This allegation was made by a fellow officer and not by Mr Rimmington himself.

Danny Major:

I was later acquitted of that charge on the basis of several bits of information. The forensic doctor said that it was impossible for what Oldroyd alleged to have happened to have happened. Also one of the other officers that was there confirmed that PC Oldroyd wasn't actually there at the time, he'd in fact already returned to the police station.

Narration:

The one policeman who was still around at this point, was PC Kevin Liston - the source of the other 2 allegations made against Danny.

TIME CODE : 05:00_10:00

Narration:

Once Rimmington had been arrested they had to transport him to a holding cell. Danny and PC Liston drove Sean Rimmington in the van from Millgarth police station to the Bridewell - where the police custody cells are in the city of Leeds. This is where Danny was alleged to have committed 2 further assaults against Sean Rimmington. Allegation 2. Made by PC Kevin Liston. When removing Sean Rimmington from the back of the police van Danny Major assaulted Mr Rimmington, kneeing him in the face and punching him repeatedly.

Michael Doherty:

Down here is where you drove your van in to bring Mr Rimmington out of the vehicle yeah?

Danny Major:

I drove the van through to where there's a van at the moment and parked on the left hand side to keep it clear. There were 2 other vehicles already in there. And removed Rimmington from the van, he was resisting being removed from the van and eventually when he gave up resisting he popped out with some force and we both fell out backwards and landed on the bonnet of a Mercedes Sprinter van that was parked there by other officers.

Michael Doherty:

But PC Liston gave a different account of events and said that there was an assault at this time?

Danny Major:

That's right, PC Liston said that we had parked on the right hand side, that the van dock was completely empty and that upon removing Rimmington from the van I speared him into the concrete floor from the back of the van and then set about to knee Rimmington in the head and then to punch him approximately 5 times.

Narration:

Dealing with drunk and violent people is not at all unusual for a British police officer, but because Rimmington was violent this was a particularly difficult arrest to make. Danny opted to take him directly to a cell rather than taking his details at the front desk.

Allegation 3. Made by PC Kevin Liston. Danny Major assaulted Sean Rimmington in a police cell while performing a search. This caused Sean Rimmington to bleed profusely. Danny tells a different story.

Danny Major:

Whilst I was searching Rimmington, getting his valuables, taking the drawstring out of his trousers, taking his shoes. The last thing I was trying to do was take off his handcuffs, and at that stage Rimmington decided to roll onto his front, which had been able to completely roll onto his front, I'd have been thrown over the top of him and I'd have been in the area where he'd be able to bite me. Because although he was handcuffed to the rear, he had already tried to bite me before. So at that stage I then had to apply some bottom fist strikes to the upper left of his arm to try to stop him rolling over, that worked. Then removed the cuffs and exited the cell and took his property to the desk to book him in.

Narration:

Once again, Danny's account tells of a struggle whilst the allegations paint the picture of a violent assault.

Michael Doherty:

Shortly thereafter you left this detention centre, you were sent to hospital because you had received injuries, bruising and a cut lip in relation to the earlier assault is that right?

Danny Major:

Yeah I had a cut lip, bruising to my eye and some swelling and I was sick as a result of the head injury.

Narration:

It was not until the following morning that allegations were made against Danny. He was not told about these accusations until several days later when he was suspended from duty. He would not find out exactly what he was accused of for another month.

Danny Major:

I was only made fully aware of the allegation towards the end of October when I was actually interviewed. When I'd initially been suspended I wasn't particularly worried, I thought well allegations are made all the time. A few weeks before one of my supervisors had similar allegations made against him and I'd happened to be able to seize the video tape, straight away, it was of the van dock at the Leeds Bridewell and the video clearly showed the person who made the complaint was lying, that tape was seized and professional standards did a brief investigation and cleared the officer. So I wasn't particularly worried, because I knew everywhere that was covered in the allegation apart from the inside of the cell was covered by CCTV so it'd be able to show that what I said was true. It was only when I got to interview and I was expecting to see lots and lots of CCTV video showing that my point of view was correct that alarm bells started to go off because a lot of tapes were missing or weren't recording or weren't recording the right part and then that's when it started to feel as though something's going wrong here. It's getting where the investigating officer has made his mind up about the case, he's not going to investigate any alternatives, but he thinks I'm guilty so he's going to prove it.

Narration:

It took 3 years from the initial allegation for Danny to go through the trial process. There were 3 trials and after the 3rd trial Danny was eventually convicted. The jury returned a unanimous not guilty verdict for the first allegation...

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

Michael Doherty:

But he was subsequently convicted by the jury of the other further 2 charges of the assault in the van dock area and the assault in the police cell area.

Narration:

The only witness to allegations 2 & 3 was Danny's accuser, PC Kevin Liston. Any piece of evidence that could contradict PC Liston would jeopardise his credibility and cause both of his allegations against Danny to be disregarded. Unfortunately no one else had seen what happened that night. Or had they? What about the machines? what did they see?

Michael Doherty:

There's obviously a key piece of evidence which was not taken in part of this investigation which is the CCTV camera just up there.

Danny Major:

That's right yeah

Michael Doherty:

And it's obviously pointing down into this dock area. Is there any reason why that CCTV was never seized?

Danny Major:

As you can see from now you can see quite clearly through the van area. If the van had been parked where Liston said it was, any assault would have been readily apparent from the camera behind just here.

Michael Doherty:

So it wasn't a question that they seized the tapes and they didn't show anything, they just didn't seize the tapes?

Danny Major:

They deny the fact that they've got access to it and they deny the fact that it was recording. But it just so happens that I seized that tape a few weeks previously in an unrelated inquiry. In total the police said that 5 cameras weren't recording on the night in question and that only 2 were recording.

Narration:

Whilst there are no CCTV cameras in the individual cells, and hence no recording that would either disprove or show the alleged assault in the cell, there are cameras in the corridors that would show the comings and goings of officers and detainees from the cell area. Danny's Mum found it difficult to explain the camera situation to family members.

Danny Major's Mother:

This is a model that we had to make because family members couldn't understand where cameras were in the Bridewell. We made this 3D model so that we could explain and immediately people understood it. That's the COC desk, that's where Danny went down to the cells, this is the charge desk. This camera actually does work, this one we was told never worked and these 2 cameras do work and it shows the entrance to the cells there and that one shows the entrance to the cells there. So you can see who goes up and down these corridors at any one time.

Narration:

There was a litany of excuses given by the police when it came to gathering this evidence for the trial. Some of this footage would emerge later but too late to keep Danny from being convicted. Prisoners in the cells of the Bridewell can press an intercom button to request assistance from the police, but records of this system's use were said to have been irretrievably corrupted. This is more evidence lost that could have been used to back up the victim's story. Sean Rimmington told the paramedics that were called to check on his injuries a very different story to the one that Kevin Liston would give. One that doesn't implicate Danny.

Danny Major:

He said that he'd awoken in a police cell, got up to ask for a glass of water and pressed the buzzer in the cell and that then 2 people had come to the cell and assaulted him. I believe that at the time he actually indicated, because there were several officers there when the paramedics were there, and he actually used the words these bastards did this to me.

Michael Doherty:

I also understand, I believe that the hospital doctor, Doctor Goddon also confirmed that Rimmington told her on arrival to the hospital that he was punched in the face by two men, is that correct.

Danny Major:

Yeah, it's not just his first allegation, he has gone on to repeat that allegation and it's still never been investigated by the police. But the bizarre thing is that me as a defendant, there's nothing conflicting in my account and the complainant's account which is not something I would ever have expected – to see somebody convicted when both the victim and the defendant are giving the same account, which excludes the defendant.

Narration:

In addition to all of this - further evidence emerged after Danny had been convicted. Evidence that must have been collected at the time of the allegations, but was never mentioned during Danny's trials.

Danny Major:

The forensic evidence from PC Liston's clothing we didn't even know about at all. We were under the impression that it had never been seized, there were no records of it having ever been seized. It was only quite recently that not only did we find out that it had been seized but that when it was tested it came back with the damning evidence that it had Rimmington's blood and saliva on it. But that wasn't available at trial.

Michael Doherty:

They knew that prior to the 3rd trial, the police knew it existed?

Danny Major:

They must have done because they had seized it. The records don't even show when it was seized. Now for there to be blood and saliva there's been extremely close contact and the forensic expert has said that that has happened at the point of bleed.

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

Danny Major:

Now the only way I can judge for that to have happened and for it to be under his arm as well is that he's been in close contact in some kind of struggle with Rimmington and he's had him in a headlock. None of which is covered by Liston's account.

Narration:

Even more damning evidence against Liston's character would later emerge - things that were hushed up during Danny's trials.

Danny Major:

Since the trial it's become apparent that Kevin Liston has a drug problem, he's been investigated for attempting to supply class A drugs to other police officers who have reported him to professional standards and nothing's been done. There's been several assaults that he's been implicated in which no prosecution has ever materialised from. There's been disappearances of property linked to him and sexual assault as well which seems to have all disappeared. He's had probably 10 years service, 9 years of which he's been quite apparently committing criminal offences that have been covered up by West Yorkshire police professional standards because he was a witness in a case against me.

This year he was given the option to resign or face prosecution, and that has been confirmed by the chief executive of West Yorkshire Police.

Narration:

But it wasn't Liston who wound up going to prison. It was Danny. A traumatic experience for a man of the law who wound up fighting against his own organisation.

Michael Doherty:

What was it like for you, a still serving police officer, sentenced to 15 months in jail. What was it like for you actually going to jail?

Danny Major:

Extremely traumatic. It wasn't helped by the fact that the Yorkshire Post published my photograph from when I'd received a commendation on the front cover of the paper. The Yorkshire Post goes out to all of the prisons in the north of England. So straight away I was then put in the prison system with every prison wing in the north of England would have had my picture on. When I was transferred out of the area to Preston I wasn't recognisable from the photographs and I went into an open prison but it was still a very very traumatic experience and it was several years after before I was really able to talk about it properly.

Narration:

Kevin Liston was not the only villain of this piece though. He could not have covered up these events by himself. The officer who investigated this case - DI Green should have quickly got to the bottom of the lies and dismissed these allegations. Danny's father, who himself had a lengthy career in the police force, believes Green knows full well that Liston was lying.

Eric Major:

Now whether he's gone and said look I've got CCTV these witnesses are lying to me - he's got to have known, he's got to have known that they're lying. He's gone to somebody, he's got a superior, what's been said then we can only surmise because it's been complete shutdown from that point. They haven't gone the way of the truth, they've not even pursued what the complainant has said, they've ignored that totally. And if they'd have pursued that, your accuser is one of the main suspects.

Narration:

Although Green had no involvement in any of the assaults, he may well bear the most blame for Danny being sent to prison. Green was criticised heavily by the judge at the trial for his seemingly incompetent attitude. Whereas a cynical eye might see something other than just incompetence in Green's actions.

Eric Major:

It's not just one officer, it's about 5 or 6 different officers who've all given the same background story that fits in with each other when a video tape shows that's all a lie. Well that can't be done by accident, you can't go through 3 trials, well 2 trials proper, and give evidence and you back your mate up and there's a video flying round in the background which shows it's all lies. It's not coincidence, it's not a mistake, it's a planned and criminal conspiracy. The course of justice has been perverted because the wrong man was sent to prison.

Michael Doherty:

What CCTV at the Bridewell did uncover at Danny's trial was that the staff at the cells were not fulfilling their duties. The videos revealed that they had lied in their logbook about performing checks on prisoners. Failing to do these checks and record them accurately is a clear breach of the law and dereliction of duty. The judge at Danny's trial even expressed a view about these revelations and how the police should respond.

Narration:

He said that the station was not fit for purpose and that it was staffed by unorganised, unsupervised rabble. He wanted to see a full investigation with more officers held accountable.

TIME CODE : 20:00_25:31

Michael Doherty:

But this fell on deaf ears. No substantial changes have been made and no one has faced punishment. The words of a judge on the front page of a newspaper and still West Yorkshire police carry on as normal.

Narration:

So what’s the real story here? What does Danny believe happened to Sean Rimmington that night in the cell?

Danny Major:

It appears from the CCTV that Kevin Liston has been looking for his spectacles and believes that they're in the cell. So at some stage he disappears down the cell corridor, enters the cell looking for his spectacles, and is appears that he has then assaulted him. That would match the forensic evidence, it would also match Sean Rimmington's explanation. I then believe that it was Liston's attention along with Adele Neil to allow Rimmington to be found in the police cell, injured, so that they wouldn't be blamed.

Michael Doherty:

Do you think that part of the reason that you became the focus of what you believe to be a malicious prosecution was to cover up this shambles and to cover up these fictitious records made in the custody suite.

Danny Major:

I think it all started out because Liston, Oldroyd and Neil were attempting to cover up what they believed to be a more serious incident where they thought a man may potentially prove to die. It then became the police interest to secure the public confidence that the public didn't find out about the shambolic processes that were happening in the Bridewell. Leeds custody area is the largest cell area in West Yorkshire, and had they looked at that tape properly and done a correct investigation they would have had to start cases against 2 custody sergeants and pretty much the entire custody team for not doing their job properly. I believe that would have led to a temporary close down of the Leeds cell area which is not something that West Yorkshire Police would have been able to afford, the effect it would have had on public confidence.

Narration:

Danny has been convicted, served his time in prison, and lost his job in the police - but his struggle to clear his name continues. He has launched 1 unsuccessful appeal that was poorly argued by his lawyer and has sought a new investigation into the case. Danny's battle to recover his reputation will continue onwards and will not get any easier despite the clearly mounting evidence that makes his account of events look ever more true and his accusers' accounts ever more ludicrous. The personal cost has been high in money, time and effort for his whole family.

Danny Major:

This has been incredibly stressful for all my family. For many years now this case is what we've lived and breathed. The primary importance is for my family to clear my name and we will not rest until that goal is achieved.

Danny Major's Mother:

It's impacted on every aspect of our lives. My son went to university and got a decent career. He's a good honest man, proud of him. It's effected his sister, his niece, his nephew. We'll never ever give up, it's never been a question of giving up ever, it's not a question of money, it's not a question of anything like that. As Danny said it's his reputation, he's got a child coming and in generations to come I want people to look back and realise it was a miscarriage of justice. He wasn't a thug; he was framed by West Yorkshire Police. We've got to feel safe, and I can take a corrupt police officer, no problem. I cannot take the fact that the organisation which we call the police force is corrupt, I can't stomach that at all.

Michael Doherty:

In the future if your son/daughter ever grows up, would you ever encourage them to join the police?

Danny Major:

No. I would encourage them to do everything but join the police. It's an absolute nest of vipers, and it would be the furthest thing from my mind for them to join the police. I would not recommend joining West Yorkshire Police to my worst enemy.

Narration:

If the police are willing to use and discredit a promising officer with strong family ties to the force, whilst protecting an officer who is allegedly corrupt, all to defend their own image, how can we trust them? Organisations as powerful as the police must have integrity, because as Danny Major knows all too well, it's nearly impossible to fight them.

Danny Major:

This will be something that will follow me round for the rest of my life, even if I clear my name. In 50 years time if people were to put my name into a search engine all this is going to come up, it's not something that I'm readily going to be able to put behind me even when I do clear my name.

   

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