The hearing on an application for leave to appeal for two members of the Freshwater Five concluded on Friday last week.
Judgment is expected to be handed down in the next few weeks.
The Freshwater Five – Jamie Green, Jonathan Beere, Zoran Dresic, Scott Birtwistle and Daniel Payne – were sentenced to a total of 104 years’ imprisonment at Kingston Crown Court in June 2011 after being convicted by an 11-1 majority jury verdict.
Lawyers acting for Jonathan Beere and Danny Payne presented fresh expert evidence, undermining the prosecution’s case that the men conspired to use a fishing boat to collect drugs from a containership in the English Channel and later deposited them in Freshwater Bay off the Isle of Wight.
Scaffolding business owner Jonathan Beere, fishing boat skipper Jamie Green and crewmember Zoran Dresic were each handed down 24 years’ imprisonment, while fishermen Daniel Payne and Scott Birtwistle received 18-and 14-year sentences respectively.
“The victims of a heinous miscarriage of justice”
The families of the Freshwater Five have prepared a joint statement:
“This is an anxious time for us all as we await the judgment. The men and their families have been the victims of a heinous miscarriage of justice. To be wrongly imprisoned for ten years for a crime you didn’t commit should be something that never happens in a modern society and exposes a deep and serious flaw in the legal system.
“We hope the Court of Appeal now has everything it needs to finally see the truth – that the men are innocent and should never have been convicted of this crime. We hope that they will act swiftly to set right the wrong that has been done to us and overturn these convictions.
“Absolutely everyone would like to place on record their sincerest thanks to the legal charity APPEAL. We would not be where we are today but for their relentless investigation of the case.
“We also want express our sincere thanks to Joel Bennathan QC and Annabel Timan for their painstaking preparation and advocacy, and to the experts instructed by our legal team who have put in hundreds of hours, working largely for free, uncovering the truth.”
New evidence presented
Over the course of the hearing last week, the court heard new evidence that:
- Radar evidence suggested that the men’s fishing boat, the Galwad-Y-Mor did not get sufficiently close to the path travelled by the MSC Oriane to permit the transfer of any drugs.
- A high-speed craft was caught on radar speeding towards the location in Freshwater Bay where the drugs were subsequently recovered. This alternative suspect vessel was not made known to the defence at trial.
- The HMCC Vigilant, a UK Border Agency vessel, was monitoring the MSC Oriane and appeared to have discounted the Galwad-Y-Mor as the drugs-receiving vessel around the time when the transfer was supposed to have been taking place.
- A surveillance plane flew over Freshwater Bay after the Galwad-Y-Mor passed through yet failed to report the presence of any bags tied together on a rope in the water below.
Bolton: 46 years already collectively served in prison
This evidence came to light through the tireless enquiries conducted by the men’s solicitor Emily Bolton, and investigator James Burley of the miscarriage of justice charity APPEAL.
Emily Bolton, Director of APPEAL and solicitor for the five men, said:
“The Court of Appeal heard new and compelling evidence which the Freshwater Five were deprived of the opportunity to present at trial.
“Had the jury heard the evidence in this case as it now stands, we believe they would have reached a different verdict.
“We hope the Court of Appeal will decide that in these circumstances the convictions simply cannot stand.
“Throughout the 46 years they have collectively served in prison, the Freshwater Five have always maintained their innocence. We hope the nightmare experienced by them and their families for what is now over a decade will very soon come to an end.”
News shared by APPEAL in their own words. Ed
Image: © Appeal