Nigel Edwards led Andrew Stranex on R v Francis Hunt et al, one of Britain’s longest drug prosecutions involving more than 10,000 pages of evidence, 500 witnesses, 14 barristers, five juries and more than 160 days in court.
Taxpayers were landed with a £6million legal bill for one of Britain’s longest drug prosecutions after juror, Joanne Fraill, allegedly exchanged messages with one of the defendants. Four trials took place leading to legal proceedings and investigations equating to over £5.1million and court security and police wages of £1million.
Fraill, 40, was also accused of using the internet to research the case against the judge’s orders. She faced contempt of court proceedings and a possible prison sentence for using the internet to undermine the centuries-old jury system.
The case involved drug dealer, Gary Knox, and corrupt police officer, Phil Berry, who were jailed in a protracted case. Gary Knox bribed former PC Phil Berry with a £20,000 BMW and Premier League match tickets in return for sensitive police information on his rival drug dealers in Bolton.
The first trial was abandoned due to legal arguments which led to ‘jury fatigue’ after the jury were outside the courtroom so long they could not be expected to remember the evidence given.
The second trial was abandoned after four weeks when a police emailed out confidential documents with sensitive passages obscured. However, lawyers were able to see through the black marks.
The third attempt at a trial required a jury replacement due to concerns over the status of one of its members. It continued with a new jury but was terminated after Fraill’s Facebook conversations were exposed partway through the verdicts. In their online conversations, one of the defendants, Sewart, allegedly asked Fraill for details of the jury’s deliberations on the remaining defendants. Attorney General Dominic Grieve said in a statement to the High Court that Fraill had ‘contacted Ms Sewart via the internet and conducted an online conversation with her’ and conducted internet research.
The fourth trial subsequently took place to deal with the remaining three defendants whose fate had not already been settled.
Contempt of Court
The contact and discussion between Fraill and Sewart were in direct breach of the judge’s instruction that the jury should not discuss the case with anyone outside their number. Fraill’s case was sent for further High Court hearing alongside Sewart who also faces contempt proceedings.
Ex-police constable, Phil Berry, who had befriended Gary Knox on an undercover case was jailed for four years after admitting to the charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. Convicted drug dealer, Gary Knox, was jailed for six years for the same charge but has since appealed.
The jury was unable to agree on charges of conspiracy to supply class B drugs charges against two other men, Anthony Grainger and Francis Hunt.