A senior prosecutor was responsible for a “deliberate conscious decision to flout the rules of disclosure” that led to the collapse of a major trial, a judge has ruled.
Kingsley Hyland, head of the Complex Casework Unit at the Northumbria branch of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), was to blame for “a gross failure which has undoubtedly prejudiced the defendants and has resulted in an unfair trial,” Mr Justice Cooke said in a judgment just released.
“Whether this is termed bad faith or serious default of duty does not in the end to my mind matter,” the judge continued. “The prosecution has manipulated the process of the court and derived advantages that it should not have achieved.”
Refusing to order a re-trial, the judge said: “I consider that the position here is so serious and the manipulation of the process so significant that this matter should be stayed for abuse of process.”
The defendants were John Henry Sayers, 47, of Newcastle, his brother Stephen Sayers, 45, and Mark Rowe, 40, both of Byker in Newcastle.
All denied conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by intimidating a juror and offering an inducement.
During their trial at Woolwich Crown Court, it was alleged that a cocaine dealer was recruited to “nobble” a juror at the trial of five men accused of murder.
Errol Hay said he was told to ring the juror, Robert Black, and offer him £20,000 to make the “right decision”.
Mr Black was a jury member in the trial of five men charged in connection with the killing of Freddie Knights, a Newcastle criminal, in September 2000.
The five men were John Henry Sayers, Tony Leech, Michael Dixon, Dale Miller and Edward Stewart.
Mr Sayers and Mr Leech were later acquitted on all charges in the trial at Leeds Crown Court in 2002.
Miller and Stewart were convicted of manslaughter and Dixon was found guilty of conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm with intent.
All were convicted the day before Mr Black was contacted by Mr Hay.
Today, the CPS announced that it would no longer be seeking to appeal against Mr Justice Cooke’s ruling. Prosecutors said they would be offering no evidence against the three defendants, leading to their acquittal.
In a statement just issued, John Henry Sayers said:
I am delighted at my acquittal which is a triumph for true justice. Neither I nor my brother nor Mark Rowe were guilty of this offence. We nobbled no juror or jury, and my acquittal of murder at Leeds in 2002 was an honest and true verdict.
I wish to thank my many friends and supporters, but above all my thanks go to my “dream team” of lawyers, my barristers Jonathan Goldberg QC and Andy Rutter, and my solicitor Richard Haswell.
Their work was stupendous, and without their having carefully uncovered the deliberate suppression of vital exculpatory evidence by the prosecution, I might now be serving a long sentence for a crime I did not commit.
I now want to have a quiet Christmas with my family, in the hope that the relentless persecution of me by the Northumbria Police and CPS over so many years will now cease.
I am going straight, and I only hope they will finally leave me in peace to do so.
Jonathan Goldberg QC, who defended John Henry Sayers both at his murder trial in Leeds in 2002 and in the subsequent trial, said today:
This is simply extraordinary. There have been previous cases where the police failed to disclose vital exculpatory evidence to the defence, but this is the first time in my experience where the police behaved impeccably in handing the evidence proving Errol Hay was lying to the CPS, but the Senior Crown Prosecutor Mr Kingsley Hyland failed in his duty to pass it on to the defence, for reasons best known to himself.
Here is the judge’s ruling in full.
“copies of reports R3G and R3K (relating to efforts to identify other recipients of the call named Black) were supplied with the letter of 23rd June. The prosecution are not in a position to confirm that no call was made to a second “R Black”. All that the prosecution can say is that of all the “R Blacks” who have been identified and spoken to, none can now recall a call being made to them. Given the passage of time the police cannot be certain that all “R Blacks” living in the Leeds area at the time of the trial have been seen by the police”.
“Much of the scheduled material has been generated as a result of police enquiries conducted with a view to testing the veracity of Hay’s evidence. This has produced some material which corroborates aspects of Hay’s evidence and some which calls it into question. For the most part the material would properly be regarded as neutral. Given the passage of time between the events of September 2002 and his first detailed account to the police in the Spring of 2009, it is hardly surprising that there are some discrepancies. Rather than disclose large numbers of documents which detract attention from the key issues in this case, counsel is asked to consider whether a number of formal admissions could be made which would meet the justice of the case without causing significant harm to the Crown’s position.”
The test for abuse of process