Two Burmese men whose defence team unsuccessfully sought access to a UK police report into their murder trial earlier this year have been sentenced to death by a Thai court.
Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo were found guilty today of the murder of British tourists David Miller and Hannah Witheridge on the island of Koh Tao in 2014. Three judges returned guilty verdicts after more than a year of proceedings which involved allegations of torture and missing evidence.
In August this year the case was the subject to a controversial High Court ruling in London when defence lawyers sought access to a Metropolitan Police report on the case commissioned by the prime minister on behalf of the victims' families. A precondition for Thai cooperation was that the report be kept confidential.
Expressing ‘very considerable unease’, Mr Justice Green last summer denied an application under the Data Protection Act 1998 for access to the report.
Ruling that the public interest arguments of the police were ‘strong’, the judge said: ‘The disclosure of even a small portion of the report would have a serious chilling effect because even a minor release could be seen by foreign counterparties as reflecting a more systemic risk that the ability to enter into confidentiality arrangements would be subject to override by the courts.’
As there was nothing in the data which would be of any real value to the claimants, he said the police arguments for confidentiality sufficed to outweigh the claimants’ otherwise strong interest in access.
Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo announced their intention to appeal. Press reports quoted defence lawyer Nakhon Chomphuchat as saying the case against the two was unjustified.
'The investigation and charges were conducted improperly, without any lawyers or witnesses present. There was also no translator for the defendants and the gathering of DNA samples was done unwillingly.'