A man convicted alongside four others of a £53m cocaine smuggling plot this morning told BBC Victoria Derbyshire that he is innocent and will continue the fight to clear his name.
Scott Birtwistle, one of the so-called ‘Freshwater Five’, was released from prison in March this year having served more than six years inside for a crime he has always insisted he did not commit.
In 2011, Scott was convicted alongside three fishermen and a scaffolding boss for allegedly using a fishing boat to collect cocaine from a containership in the English Channel and then dropping it off in Freshwater Bay, off the coast of the Isle of Wight.
Not a single trace of cocaine on boat
As BBC journalist Jim Reed reported this morning (Monday),
“A detailed forensic search of the fishing boat could not find a single trace of cocaine.”
In the exclusive interview with BBC Victoria Derbyshire, Scott said:
“I’ve lost the last seven years of my life. I’ve gone from being 20 years old, and I’m now 27. That’s a massive part of my life I’ve just lost, for nothing.”
“What have I got to gain coming on national TV if I was guilty? Surely if I was guilty I would just let it lie. I’ve served my time and I’m out. Why would I keep fighting for it even though I’ve been released from prison? What would be the sense in that?”
Conviction “didn’t seem real”
In his interview Scott described the moment he was convicted:
“I’ll be honest I can’t even put in to words how I felt, it was just, I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t seem real whatsoever.”
Solicitor: ‘Experts, jury and judge misled’
Scott is represented by legal charity the Centre for Criminal Appeals. His solicitor, Emily Bolton, Legal Director of the Centre, told the programme:
“In this case, even the experts testifying were not given access to all the information that they needed to get it right, to present a complete picture.
“So, the experts themselves were misled, the jury was misled, the judge was misled. And in the end, the Court of Appeal has the opportunity to put this right.”
“The jury was told that the fishing boat went behind the containership and picked up the sacks of cocaine. We can now show that was not the case.
“We can also show that where the sacks of cocaine were said to have been thrown off the fishing boat, in-shore, was a position that the fishing boat did not enter, and could not enter, according to her own navigational device.”
The Centre is preparing to lodge a fresh appeal on behalf of the men.
Article by the Centre for Criminal Appeals, in their own words. Ed
Image: © BBC