UK police risking ‘miscarriage of justice’ in Thai murder case
March 2, 2015
Questions have been raised over British police support for a Thai investigation into the murders of two young Britons, which could lead to death sentences for the accused.
British police have refused to allow two young Burmese migrant workers, charged with the murders of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, to access information about themselves that was gathered during investigations into the crime. The information on defendants Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, which they are entitled to under the Data Protection Act, has been shared with the Thai prosecution but not with the defence.
In correspondence with the police, legal charity Reprieve and law firm Leigh Day have outlined concerns that UK police assistance to the prosecution will reduce the chance of a fair trial and could lead to death sentences for the men, whose local defence team is significantly hampered by a lack of resources. The decision not to allow the men to see the information on them could, the letter says, lead to a miscarriage of justice; it could also put the police in contravention of UK policy against the provision of support for the death penalty overseas.
Accusations that the men were tortured by police into making forced ‘confessions’ were raised immediately after the Thai prosecution investigation – supported by British police – began. A forensics expert has also expressed doubt about the forensic evidence against the men.
The Burmese migrant community is routinely discriminated against in Thailand, and other Burmese workers on Koh Tao have described serious mistreatment by police, including scalding with boiling water and suffocation.
Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “Our sympathies are of course with the families at such a difficult time, and we understand their desire to see those responsible held to account. It is therefore essential to make sure that we see a fair trial – but this can only happen if there is a level playing field.
“That’s why the one-sided assistance provided to the Thai prosecutors by the UK police is so worrying – especially when they are aware that two young men could face the death penalty following torture, and a deeply flawed trial. It is essential for all concerned that the UK is transparent about their role in the Thai investigations, and that they ensure that they do not do anything to jeopardise a fair trial where the death penalty could result.”