CPS North West Successes 2015

Brett Gerrity, Peter Suffolk and Lee Salisbury see 13 convicted for involvement in the gang murder of Jon-Jo Highton

Brett Gerrity, Senior Crown Prosecutor, Peter Suffolk, Paralegal Officer and Lee Salisbury, Witness Care Officer, CPS North West

In July 2015, two gang members pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit GBH and were jailed for their part in the death of Jon-Jo Highton on 23rd August 2014, joining six others who had previously been convicted of the higher charge of murder. The eight of them were jailed for a total of 163 years. Three others had also previously been jailed for a total of 14 years for assisting the gang to evade arrest and two more people are awaiting sentence for perverting the course of justice, taking the total number of people convicted for crimes connected with the death of Jon-Jo Highton to 13.

Brett worked closely with the police on evenings and weekends from the outset of this complex investigation, piecing together the 273 witness statements, CCTV and telephony evidence, before authorising charges against 13 of the 25 arrested.

Peter prepared and served 137,214 pages of evidence and data disks, prepared 45 jury bundles, applied for witness special measures and reporting restrictions, managed correspondence from 11 defence solicitors and ensured the smooth running of the complex nine-week trial.

Lee attended strategy meetings with the prosecution team, communicated with and supported all the witnesses and ensured they attended the trial on the right day despite daily changes to the trial.

Det Supt Eddie Thistlethwaite, Force Major Investigation Team said: "I would like to thank Brett, the prosecution team and the police investigation team. Each and every person involved has worked tirelessly, as one team together, to help bring about these convictions and sentences."

Chris Long, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor, for CPS North West said: "This case is a prime example of the teamwork I see from staff across North West. It is due to Brett, Peter and Lee's commitment, hard work and partnership with the police that this dangerous gang has been taken off the streets for a significant length of time, and justice achieved for the family of Jon-Jo Highton."

Exceptional work by a CPS North West prosecution team to bring a murderous nurse to justice in Greater Manchester's largest, most complex case for a decade

Ben Southam, Deputy Head, and Vicky Crook, Paralegal Officer, CPS North West Complex Casework Unit, and Michael Morley, Senior Crown Advocate, CPS North West Crown Advocacy Unit

Victorino Chua, a nurse at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, was convicted of two murders and 31 other offences connected to the poisoning of patients. He received 25 life sentences and must serve a minimum of 35 years in prison.

Ben Southam, the reviewing lawyer from North West's CCU, had an enormous task to review and analyse thousands of pages of evidence. The prosecution involved over 700 witnesses, more than 30,000 pages of evidence and over 13,000 documents of unused material were reviewed. It was Greater Manchester Police's largest, most complex case in a decade.

Ben was involved from the earliest stages of the case. Victorino Chua was arrested in January 2012 and the CPS team of Ben, Senior Crown Advocate Michael Morley (Junior Counsel) and paralegal officer Vicky Crook worked tirelessly on the case alongside external prosecuting Counsel (a senior non-CPS lawyer) and investigators to bring him to justice. With no eye witnesses, no CCTV and no forensic evidence directly linking Chua to the crimes, the prosecution team painstakingly pieced together a strong circumstantial case and proved to the jury that Chua was the person responsible for the poisonings.

By agreeing as much of the evidence as possible with the defence and carefully focusing the expert evidence on areas where disagreement remained, the prosecution team ensured that the trial was manageable and succeeded in presenting very complex medical evidence in an understandable way for the jury.

Ian Rushton, Temporary Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West said: "The attention to detail by the prosecution team, firm handling of the preparation for trial and the overall presentation of the case was truly exceptional."

Extraordinary 'dock identification' results in guilty plea

David Graham, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West

David Graham robustly argued during a trial at Manchester City Magistrates Court that an unprompted 'dock identification', normally prohibited, should be allowed. The magistrates agreed, prompting an immediate guilty plea from the defendant.

The case management form from the defence contained very little detail other than a denial of the offence (the assault of a pub landlord). When the victim was called to give evidence at trial he, unprompted, identified the defendant in the dock as the man who assaulted him. The defence objected saying that identity was an issue and there should have been a VIPER id parade, which was disputed by the prosecution, and the magistrates declared a mistrial.

David researched case law on dock identifications, and at the retrial informed the magistrates that identification had never been raised in interview or by the defence on the case management form. He presented a detailed argument that due to the defence negligence to identify trial issues (as demanded by the Criminal Procedure Rules) the Magistrates should exercise their discretion in allowing a dock ID as part of the prosecution case. The magistrates agreed and, thanks to David's determination, the defendant was left with no defence case and therefore no choice but to plead guilty. He was sentenced there and then and the magistrate announced he was to get zero credit for his last minute guilty plea.

Ian Rushton, Acting Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West area said: "I am pleased that the court agreed with David's robust legal arguments that an ambush defence, which bore no resemblance to what had been flagged up on the case management form - a fundamental part of Transforming Summary Justice (TSJ), could not be allowed."

Five years of hard work 'pays off' for CPS lawyer

Ben Southam, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the North West Complex Casework Unit

Ben Southam worked tirelessly on the Operation Walrus case for five years and saw the final chapter through to a successful conclusion in January 2015 when a confiscation order for 832k was made by the court against Haslingden business man Ian Cole.

In total 11 defendants were jailed for a total of 72 years for drugs and money laundering offences. The head of the gang received 17 years imprisonment and has paid back 285,000 so far in proceeds of crime monies. Ian Cole received five and a half years for money laundering; he has been ordered to pay back the full amount within six months or face another three and a half years imprisonment on top of his current sentence.

Ben had to deal with a number of complex, sensitive and unique issues in this case; Ian Cole and his father failed to comply with a POCA Restraint Order, so Ben arranged for a Management Receiver to control his businesses. He had no previous experience of such orders and this is currently the only one in the North West area. Cole appointed a succession of four barristers and after he dispensed with the last one represented himself whilst Cole's father also represented himself for most of the proceedings and was in regular direct contact with Ben, making many applications in respect of the Restraint and Receivership Orders.

Howard Gough, Head of the North West Complex Casework Unit said: "It is Ben's attention to detail, perseverance and the excellence of his case preparation that has led to the convictions and sentences of this major organised crime gang. He clearly demonstrates on a daily basis everything that the CCU and the CPS are well regarded for."

Prosecution team help clean up the streets of Lancashire by convicting 47 members of five gangs

Brett Gerrity, Senior Crown Prosecutor; Peter Suffolk, Jessica Hoban, Tim Brennan, Emma Kidd and Dan Weaver, Paralegal Officers; Lancashire-Cumbria Crown Court team, CPS North West

In the past 18 months, Brett Gerrity and the paralegal team from the Lancashire-Cumbria Crown Court Unit have been dedicated to disrupting and dismantling Lancashire's organised crime gangs with outstanding results.

In five cases, 47 gang members responsible for murder, violence, armed robberies and drug dealing throughout Lancashire were sentenced to a total of 405 years' imprisonment between February and July 2015. Some were given Serious Crime Prevention Orders and others were given the first Gang Injunction Orders for Lancashire.

Brett worked closely with the police following each of the five police operations to bring together the numerous strands of evidence to build a strong case against each defendant. He worked tirelessly on these five cases alongside his other casework. Brett and the paralegal officers worked together over many months meticulously preparing each of the cases for trial in order to secure the convictions and effectively taking the gang members, their proceeds of crime, drugs, guns, ammunition and various weapons out of circulation.

Martin Hill, Acting Head of the Crown Court Unit said: "Gang-related offences are amongst the most challenging and complex cases the CPS deals with. I am delighted that the hard work of Brett and each and every paralegal officer who worked on the cases has resulted in such significant sentences and also helped secure Lancashire's first Gang Injunction Orders. Results such as these show the importance of the work we do and the difference we can make to victims, witnesses and communities, by making the streets of Lancashire a safer place to be."

Prosecutors ensure justice and support for vulnerable domestic violence victim

Lauren Costello and David Graham, Senior Crown Prosecutors, Greater Manchester Magistrates' Court team, CPS North West

The victim, who spoke no English, was married in a temple to the defendant soon after her arrival in the UK from India. The marriage was never registered in the UK, which meant legally she was overstaying her visa and which he therefore used to control and mentally and physically abuse her. The abuse escalated after she became pregnant with a female child.

Following the birth, she feared for both her and the child's safety and used gestures to tell her neighbour that she was being abused, then made a complaint to police via an interpreter and was housed with her baby in a refuge.

The victim came under pressure from the defendant, his family and others in the community to retract. David liaised with police, who worked with the refuge and the Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) to ensure she received support. The Witness Care Unit arranged for an interpreter and Lauren applied for Special Measures to allow her to give evidence behind a screen.

However, at trial, she felt unable to give evidence against her husband, so because the victim was high risk, Lauren applied to have her written statement read in full to the court, which was allowed. The neighbour gave evidence of how the woman alerted him to the abuse and described her distress and injuries. The police officer also described her distress. Lauren presented the court with injury photographs and a clump of hair that her husband had pulled from her head.

In August 2015 the victim's husband was given a Restraining Order and suspended jail sentence for assault.

David Graham said: "Prosecuting cases involving vulnerable members of the community is challenging. Some victims believe giving evidence against a partner is shameful. This case shows that no matter how isolated a victim feels, they can come forward and be given the best possible service from the criminal justice system."

Defying devastating floods to maintain the best possible service

Carlisle office staff

In early December parts of Cumbria were devastated by flooding. Staff based at the CPS office in Carlisle rallied together against the odds to ensure CPS business was maintained during the disruption.

On the Monday after the floods staff faced huge challenges. Main roads and bridges into the city were closed and street lighting was not working. Members of staff battled their way into work, some arriving as early as 7am despite hazardous road conditions. Some abandoned their cars, walking long distances to get to work. Alison Wells (casework support officer) deserves a special mention for making the 30 mile journey from home in these difficult conditions. As the office was without heating for two days and the IT server was down, working conditions for staff were not easy.

Carlisle and Kendal Magistrates courts were flooded. Stuart Pattinson (SCP) prosecuted the emergency remand court sitting at the Combined Court Centre in Carlisle for the first two days and dealt with cases that could go ahead, plus all overnight cases for Carlisle and Kendal. He was praised by District Judge Chalk for his professionalism.

The challenges were far from over. 'Pop up' courts were running in available government buildings until the damaged courts became operational. Advocates were co-operative and professional when attending these venues.

Many staff have family who were badly affected. The fact that they coped with these difficult circumstances whilst remaining fully committed to their duties is a testament to their dedication.

Aksha Shahid, Head of Magistrates' Court Prosecutions for Lancashire and Cumbria said, "CPS staff at all grades in Carlisle deserve recognition for their commitment and determination to pull together and provide the best service possible to victims of crime and the public in Cumbria during a very challenging time."