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CPS decides police officers should not be prosecuted over Stirland case

29/08/2007

The Crown Prosecution Service has advised the Independent Police Complaints Commission that police officers in the Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire forces should not be prosecuted over the way they handled the circumstances surrounding the murder of John and Joan Stirland.

Ian Keates, Special Casework Lawyer for CPS South Yorkshire, who reviewed the case, said: "The IPCC sent a file to me concerning six police officers from Nottinghamshire to decide whether criminal offences may have been committed by one or more of the officers in the way they dealt with the Stirland case. Having reviewed all the evidence, I have decided that none of the officers should be charged."

John and Joan Stirland were murdered in August 2004 in a revenge attack because Mrs Stirland's son, Michael O'Brien, had murdered a man in Nottingham. Various people have since been tried and convicted for these murders.

Mr Keates said the IPCC's concerns about the way the case was handled included:

  • the recording and sharing of intelligence both between and within the forces;
  • the quality of the investigations into connected revenge/intimidation offences;
  • the protection afforded to Mr and Mrs Stirland;
  • the police response to a report of a "prowler" at the Stirlands' home shortly before the murders.

He said: "I considered whether there was any evidence for anyone to be charged with misconduct in a public office or offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974.

"In considering whether individual officers have committed offences, I have to consider their conduct and whether it fell seriously below acceptable standards. An error of judgement or a mistake is not enough for a criminal charge.

"Having considered all the evidence, I have found insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against any individual officer for any offence. In coming to this conclusion I have borne in mind guidance from the Court of Appeal on the offence of misconduct, which made clear the need to consider the circumstances of the alleged conduct and its likely consequences.

"As shocking and tragic as Mr and Mrs Stirland's murders were, my task has been to focus upon the behaviour of the police. Whatever one's view of the efficiency, diligence, or competence of the officers who have been referred to me, there is no evidence that their acts or omissions caused the deaths of Mr and Mrs Stirland. This was one of a number of factors I considered in deciding whether to go ahead with health and safety charges. Having reviewed carefully this complex case, I have concluded there is insufficient evidence to prove that anyone had committed any offences under the Heath and Safety at Work Act."

  1. A file of evidence was sent by the IPCC to the CPS on 18 May, 2007. A request for further information was made and that was sent to the CPS on 9 July 2007.
  2. Colin Gunn, John Russell and Michael McNee were all convicted at Birmingham Crown Court in June 2006 of conspiracy to murder John and Joan Stirland at Trusthorpe, Lincs, between August 1 and August 9, 2004. Five other men were acquitted. See also the press release: Stirland case: Three men guilty of conspiracy to murder on this website.
  3. On 2 August 2007, Colin Gunn was found guilty of two offences of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. The Crown's case was that using go-betweens, he asked for, and received, confidential information from Nottinghamshire police officers. He was sentenced to nine years for each offence to run concurrent to the life sentence he is already serving. See also the press release: Nottingham crime boss found guilty of corrupting police had conviction for conspiracy to murder on this website.
  4. Mr and Mrs Stirland were living in Trusthorpe, Lincolnshire, at the time of their deaths in August 2004, having fled their home in Nottingham after shots were fired at their house.
  5. For further information contact CPS Press Office, 020 7796 8180.