Thursday, 26 July 2007

Perhaps the more experienced members of the bloggeratti can offer a little advice on this.

Last weeks Sunday Times (which I have only just got around to reading - took the little monsters to Legoland in Windsor for a couple of days – considering doing post about the trip ?!?) revealed information regarding a piece of evidence critical to the Cash for Honours was detailed. This was a diary kept by Sir Christopher Evans which allegedly detailed a series of meetings at the House of Lords in 2004 with Lord Levy, Blair’s chief fundraiser, to discuss a peerage.

A well-placed Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) source apparently said the diary was “dynamite” and provided “spectacular” evidence of an alleged “agreement” for Evans to be ennobled in return for a £1m loan.

A CPS official said that this was one of the pieces of evidence which formed the core police investigation, which the Yard believed until recently would lead to charges against key Downing Street aides.

However, the investigation was effectively halted at a meeting on July 4 when a leading government barrister, David Perry QC, ruled that the diary was not admissible as evidence.
Perry also said the police must have evidence of an “unambiguous agreement” showing that the financial backers gave money only on the explicit understanding that they would be honoured in return. The CPS announced last week it would not be charging anyone.

I’m no expert on criminal law so I can’t offer an assessment and would welcome anyone’s thoughts on this. But doesn’t this suggest that the decision on the admissibility of the evidence was hardly coming from an impartial source with all of the implications that flow from it?

The fact that the this hasn’t been picked up by the many bloggers who have closely followed the case probably goes to highlight my ignorance of the rules around the admissibility of evidence rather than some great insight. But the Police are surely not fools when it comes to knowing what evidence is admissible. Also that fact that the CPS source quoted thought the evidence was ‘dynamite’ would suggest that if this had been allowed to go forward then a case could have been brought before the courts.

From a lay persons perspective it smells but I am happy to be corrected.


CityUnslicker said...

you seem to have a point, I am no legal expert either.

I think when it all come sout inthe wash what will be found is that no one was willing to testify. A court case with all hostile witnesses is pretty rare.

Phil A said...

You do indeed have a point. However there is many a piece of hearsay evidence that might be damning, if it were admissible. Basically It is not admissible in court because it is not first hand.

The diary was ruled as “hearsay” and not therefore not admissible as evidence. So whatever the diary said it was not ‘first hand’ enough to count.

The reason they did not go ahead with any prosecutions was that there was no “unambiguous offer of a gift, etc., in exchange for an honour” that could be supported “either by direct evidence” or by inferences that “must be so strong as to overwhelm any thing else. In other words they didn’t find anything that said specifically:

“if you Joe Soap give us x amount of cash then, we promise to make you a lord in return for the cash” Basically they need to be caught with a smoking gun and a blood spattered victim whilst they are signing a confession in the victims blood on the floor beside them before this particular offence can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Or if there was in the diary it was something like “I was told that someone heard someone say if you Jose Soap….”

One wonders why they could not track down the person who originally said it. Probably poor reco/I>

Phil A said...

...Probably poor recollection on the part of the witnesses. “You know, now you come to ask officer I can’t recall it was so long ago now…”

Lord Straf-Bollinger said...

Well, I went through this and am proud to announce I'm not an experienced member of the bloggerati. CUS is though and I defer to his judgement.

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

OK, I'm going to go out on a limb here...

I think that the Blair government had in place a set of arrangements which made it coincident that donors to the Labour Party also received peerages.
The way it was done would make it hard to prove in law.

What you have to remember is, this legislation was drafted a long time ago. The Blair government exploited loopholes the original legislators did not foresee.

But the law has to be what is written, not what we'd like it to be.

We need to be very careful indeed about pushing to relax laws of evidence.
They are already very lax, compared to the states.
In the US, you can't make anything admissible, no matter how heard you try, if any process was not followed correctly to get that.

Hard cases make bad law.
The media unwisely push this, getting upset about the emotive ones.
We cry with rage because the guilty go free, but how many innocents must suffer to stop that?

The laws job is firstly to protect the innocent.

Grendel said...

Crushed – I don’t think you are out on a limb at all. We should require the highest standards of evidence and expect that it is scrutinised impartially. And the law is the law is the law and the fundamental test is whether a breach of that has occurred.

I suspect that on balance it was more than just coincidence that the donors received peerages. But if the evidence isn’t conclusive then I guess we will have to accept this and move on, through gritted teeth but move on nevertheless.

My curiosity is around the impartiality of those who made the decision on the admissibility of this particular evidence. I’m not a legal expert and the question was not rhetorical. But there have been enough incidents over the last few years to lead one to question probity of the current administration. The questions over the relationship of the Smith Institute and Brown will lead to nothing but again it leaves a suspicion that all is not quite right.

The law IS there to protect the innocent, absolutely. But it is also open to manipulation by the legislature. For example I utterly detest Nick Griffin and his bunch of thugs but Gordon’s suggestion after Griffin’s recent acquittal that the law be changed to essentially ‘get him next time’ is profoundly worrying.