Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Curtis Warren---Rough Justice or Just Desserts?
Whatever Curtis Warren’s business dealings were, he was successful, so much so that he appeared on the 1997 Sunday Times Rich List. Although he was described as a property developer it is apparent that he had outside interests and drug trafficking was one of them. However he was not successful at evading the law authorities because by the early summer of 2007 Warren was coming to the end of a prison sentence he was serving in Holland for a drug plot which had been lengthened following a conviction for killing a fellow prisoner during a fight.
However within 5 weeks of being released from prison he was arrested by the Jersey police and accused of being the ringleader of a six-man gang who were trying to import 180kg of cannabis into the island from Holland via boat from France.
He had denied leading a £1 million plot, but in October 2009 after a two week trial a jury found him and his team guilty of conspiracy to import a controlled drug.
One of the key elements which led to the conviction was the claim that the Jersey Police for surveillance purposes, “bugged” a vehicle being used by Warren’s team. It is claimed that the officers’ action were not only unauthorised but they knew it to be. I am pretty sure that the officer’s will have their version of events so no blame should be apportioned at this stage. However it is very apparent that had the vehicle not been “bugged” it is unlikely that it would have been located and the team arrested.
One can understand the officer’s dileama do they “ break the law” to gather information to assist in arresting a team of criminals in the process of committing a serious crime or do they allow the team to get away? No doubt we all have a view but what is pertinent is that arresting someone is only one part of the legal process. There are other bodies with responsibility for determing whether those arrested should be charged and then referred to the court and tried.
It should be noted that Jersey’s own version of a prosecution service gave approval for the matter to be referred to court. (Jersey does not have independent prosecution service) What is pertinent is that body must have been aware of the Police officer’s actions so why was the matter allowed to go to trial?
The Judge also had the opportunity of kicking the case into touch but did not do so and as mentioned above after a two week trial the Jury returned a guilty verdict. Warren and his team received sentences of varying lengths but soon lodged an appeal which took a further 15 months before being heard.
Warren had built his case at London's Supreme Court around the fact that Jersey Police gathered their evidence against him illegally, which meant he could have been released thanks to their errors. However the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the application. In their unanimous judgement the court, led by Lord Dyson, called Jersey Police's actions a "sustained and deliberate act of law breaking".
They said: "The Board stresses its condemnation of the police misconduct in this case. It was a sustained and deliberate act of law breaking."
They added: "The outcome of this appeal should not be seen to condone or overlook such behaviour. It should not be taken by Jersey police as any kind of signal that they can repeat this kind of conduct with impunity".
Such comments seem hypercritical in the extreme because they could have found in favour of Warren who was understandably aggrieved because he felt he was on the receiving end of rough justice. Warren who is not known as “Teflon” for nothing soon set about further appeals.
What is also of interest is that following the 2009 trial the then acting Police Chief, David Warcup was reported to have said "We hope that the conviction of the men sends out a clear message to others that we will continue to tackle those responsible for the importation of drugs into the island.”
Given Mr Warcup (mis) handling of his former boss’s suspension (Graham Power) it is not surprising that he would make such comments because he is very familiar with unauthorised activity.
Following the Judges’ comments the matter was refferred to the Hampshire Police who are apparently investigating the actions taken by the Jersey Police Officers involved with the process leading to Warren’s arrest. The officer responsible for managing the operation was Chief Inspector David Minty.
No doubt Curtis Warren will be hoping that he will have more success when his appeal goes before a higher authority who might not be minded to ignore “a sustained and deliberate act of law breaking."
It is also evident that the Hants Police report will soon be published and given the court’s comments it is apparent that some one will be found wanting and I would put good money that it wont be anyone responsible for the process that followed Warren’s arrest.
Last week it was announced that Chief Inspector Minty was suspended from duty, not apparently for his handling of the Warren case, but for failing a lawful order to attend a meeting being called by the new Police Chief.
In 2008 during the first States debate on Graham Power’s suspension I said the matter had a nasty smell about it. At the time I was not aware of the shenanigans behind Graham Power’s suspension, nor am I conversant with Mr Minty’s suspension but when I think about it I do not smell roses.
I have a feeling that we shall be hearing a lot more about Mr Warren and Mr Minty, so watch this space.