Saturday, 20 February 2010

Man on trial for 2004 armed robbery has absconded

Peter Blake, a man on trial before Mr Justice Treacey, has absconded.  He is one of 4 men standing trial together before a judge alone.  The alleged offences date back to a robbery at Heathrow Airport in February 2004.  See The Independent 19th February 2010.  It appears that Blake was granted bail with various conditions and a surety of £260,000 some of which was about to be withdrawn.

In R v TR and others [2009] EWCA Crim 1035 the Court of Appeal granted an application by the Crown to hold this trial without a jury because of allegations of jury tampering.  A previous trial had been abandoned for that reason.

This is an interesting  matter.   The judgment of the Lord Chief Justice in R v TR reveals:

1. The first trial was in 2005.

2. The second trial in 2007 lasted for some 6 months.  The size of the jury declined to 10.  Here, para. 4 of the Lord Chief Justice's judgment merits a full quotation:

In 2007, following the arrests on different occasions of two of the present respondents, B and H, and the partial recovery from illness of T, three respondents stood their trial at the Central Criminal Court before His Honour Judge Roberts and a jury.  This trial lasted for more than six months.  By the time the judge came to sum up the jury had diminished to ten.  After they had been in retirement for two days a note was sent to the trial judge which indicated that the jury had reached "on all defendants on all counts a very strong majority decision".  As there was a Bank Holiday weekend ahead, the judge stated that he would not give a majority direction and take verdicts but, to assist the defence considering any submissions about the timing of such a direction he indicated that the verdicts were likely to be adverse to them.  Nine Jurors returned to court after the Bank Holiday.  A tenth juror said that he was under stress and refused to return to court.  He was therefore discharged.  With only nine jurors left, a majority veridct was no longer available and therefore the appropriate direction was not given.  The jury was unable to reach unanimous verdicts.  Pending a retrial the respondents were granted conditional bail.
A majority verdict is possible (if the judge agrees).  A majority means 10 out of either 11 or 12,  or, 9 out of 10.  

To say the least, that was a very unfortunate series of events.

3. The third trial started in June 2008 and was brought to an end in December 2008 when the judge discharged the jury.  It is clear that the judge found a serious attempt at jury tampering had occurred and there was a real and present danger that it would happen again.

 4. At a hearing in March 2009, Calvert Smith J was satisfied that there was a risk of jury tampering but he considered that protective measures could be put in place to manage the risk.

5. June 2009, the Court of Appeal disagreed with Calvert Smith J on the point that measures could be put in place to manage the risk and so they ordered a non-jury trial under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 s.44.

I have little doubt that many people will be wondering just how has it come about that these men are on bail.  It is certainly not entirely easy to square that with the point that there has been a serious risk of jury tampering.  Bail was granted in 2007 when the second trial concluded and it seems that there was no further application to remand the defendants into custody.

The trial continues without Peter Blake and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Just a point about sureties.  Money is not actually paid into court.  A surety may lose all or part of the money if the defendant fails to attend court but there has to be hearing to determine these questions.  Sureties rest on the assumption that, somehow, the person offering the money has some "control" or influence over the defendant.  Surely that must be a moot point in some cases.

1 comment:

  1. I understand that bail was granted by HHJ Jeremy Roberts in 2007. Blake then spent 2 1/2 years on bail without any problems and one can understand how the CPS felt they could not apply to revoke bail. The problem here is that the CPS did not know that one of the sureties was withdrawing money - had they have done so they would have applied for bail to be revoked. The other sureties will have to come up with some good reason why they shouldn't now pay up. It is annoying that the press keep confusing the facts of this case. I like one report that complains of the lack of security at the RCJ as opposed to the Old Bailey - conveniently forgetting that Blake was on bail and not in custody - so what has security to do with it?

    Apparently he is on his way to N.Cyprus...........