Slade & Ors v R, Court of Appeal - Criminal Division, February 10, 2015, [2015] EWCA Crim 71

Resolution Date:February 10, 2015
Issuing Organization:Criminal Division
Actores:Slade & Ors v R
 
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Case No: 200905108C5; 201001627C5; 201000924C5; 201003887C5; 201001057C5; 201003885C5; 201103556C5

Neutral Citation Number: [2015] EWCA Crim 71

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CRIMINAL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM THE CROWN COURT AT LEEDS

HHJ HOFFMAN

T20087174; T20087588

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 10/02/2015

Before :

LORD JUSTICE DAVIS

MR JUSTICE WILKIE

and

MR JUSTICE HOLROYDE

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Between :

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Mr Tim Owen QC and Mr Stephen Vullo QC (instructed by Stokoe Partnership) for the First Appellant.

Mr Kieran Vaughan QC and Mr Aaron Watkins (instructed by Stokoe Partnership) for the Second Appellant.

Mr Henry Blaxland QC and Mr Derek Duffy (instructed by Stokoe Partnership) for the Third Appellant.

Mr David Emanuel (instructed by Stokoe Partnership) for the Fourth Appellant.

Mr Paul Greaney QC and Mr Nicholas de la Poer (instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service) for the Respondent.

Hearing dates: 26, 27 and 28 November 2014

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JudgmentLord Justice Davis:

This is the judgment of the Court to which all members have contributed.

Introduction

  1. As long ago as 20 August 2009, after a lengthy trial at Leeds Crown Court before His Honour Judge Hoffman and a jury, each of the appellants Slade, Pearman and Baxter was convicted of counts of conspiracy to murder, criminal damage, handling and arson.

  2. After that trial they faced a further trial (along with the appellant Hudson) on two counts of conspiracy to rob and two counts of robbery. At various stages Baxter changed his plea to one of guilty on three of the counts which he faced and Hudson pleaded guilty to one count of robbery and one count of conspiracy to rob. After that second trial (also before Judge Hoffman and a jury at Leeds Crown Court) Slade and Pearman were on 1 February 2010 convicted of all four counts and Baxter was convicted of the remaining count of robbery which he faced.

  3. Each of Slade, Pearman and Baxter was sentenced to imprisonment for life on both indictments. In sentencing, the judge made clear that he had considered both indictments together in making his assessment of dangerousness. He described them as callous, dangerous and ruthless and engaged in ``Premier League crime''. Slade was assessed as the leader, with Pearman and Baxter described as ``loyal henchmen''. They were sentenced to life terms with consecutive notional determinate terms of 23 years (first indictment) and 20 years (second indictment) in the case of Slade; 21 years (first indictment) and 18 years (second indictment) in the case of Pearman; and 21 years (first indictment) and 18 years (second indictment) in the case of Baxter. The resulting specified minimum terms were 21½ years, 19½years and 19½years respectively, with time spent on remand in custody being directed to count towards sentence. A Serious Crime Prevention Order was also made against Slade.

  4. Hudson, who had pleaded guilty at a late stage on the two counts which he faced, was described by the judge as not being a core member of the gang. He did not attract a finding of dangerousness. He was sentenced to a term of 9 years imprisonment, with time spent on remand in custody also being directed to count towards sentence.

  5. Applications of Pearman and Baxter to appeal against their convictions on the second indictment have previously been rejected by this Court. All appellants, however, appeal with leave against the sentences imposed on the second indictment and Slade, Pearman and Baxter also appeal, with leave, against the sentences imposed on the first indictment.

  6. The appeal hearing before us however, was confined to the appeals, with leave of the single judge, of Slade, Pearman and Baxter against their convictions on the first indictment, the arguments focusing on the convictions on the count of conspiracy to murder. It ultimately was common ground before us that the various appeals against sentence would need to be deferred for further consideration depending on the outcome of the appeals against conviction on the first indictment; and the appellant Hudson (who we gather has now been released on licence) made no objection to the hearing of the appeals against sentence being adjourned for this purpose.

  7. A great part of the appeals against conviction has concerned the appellants' applications to this court to adduce fresh evidence. The fresh evidence is of two kinds.

    i) The first relates to CCTV evidence (taken with mobile phone and cell-site analysis). It is said that the proposed fresh evidence demonstrates that critical timings shown on the CCTV recordings at Slade's home at 2 Sandmoor Drive was consistently, over the relevant period, some 22 minutes slow as compared with real time. When that factor is then also linked to an analysis of mobile phone usage and cell-site and other evidence, the result is, so it is said, that it is shown that some or all of Slade, Pearman and Baxter could not have been in an Audi RS6 car engaged in conspiring to murder at the times and locations forming a central part of the Crown's case at the trial. We note at this stage that much of the argument on this point rested not simply on fresh evidence as such but also on a redeployment (albeit with what appear to be a fresh analysis and considerable amplification) of evidence and arguments available to be advanced at trial.

    ii) The second relates to voice recognition evidence. Such evidence had been given at trial. But it is said that there have subsequently been developments in the relevant science such that new evidence in the form of Automatic Speaker Recognition technology - being evidence of a kind not previously deployed in the courts of England and Wales- should now be admitted. It is said that such evidence demonstrates not only that the assertion of alleged consistency of voices recorded on the relevant occasions in the RS6 car with the voices of Slade, Pearman and Baxter (as advanced by the Crown at trial) was in fact erroneous, but also that the presence of the appellants in the car on such occasions can positively be excluded.

  8. That, however, is not the only ground for these appeals. Other grounds are advanced. It is said that the Judge should have acceded to an application to discharge the jury. It is said that the Judge erred in failing to accede to submissions of no case to answer made on behalf of all three appellants at the close of the prosecution case. It is further said that thereafter the summing-up to the jury was unfair, unbalanced and heavily slanted in favour of the prosecution and against the defence. Very late in the day, an argument was also sought to be raised on behalf of Baxter to the effect that there was unfair non-disclosure at trial by the Crown of material said to be highly relevant to the defence case.

  9. At trial, all the defendants were represented by experienced leading and junior counsel. Since trial, however, there have, for various reasons, been changes in the legal representation, sometimes more than once. Before us, Slade was represented by Mr Tim Owen QC with Mr Stephen Vullo QC; Pearman was represented by Mr Henry Blaxland QC leading Mr Derek Duffy; and Baxter was represented by Mr Kieran Vaughan QC leading Mr Aaron Watkins. The Crown was represented by Mr Paul Greaney QC leading Mr Nicholas de la Poer. Mr Greaney (then as junior counsel being led by Mr Robert Smith QC) and Mr Duffy had appeared at trial: none of the other counsel appearing before us (or the solicitors instructing them) had been involved in the trial.

  10. We would wish to pay tribute to the meticulously thorough preparation by the legal teams, counsel and solicitors, of all parties for the purposes of this appeal and to the skill and care with which the respective arguments, both written and oral, were advanced in a case which has raised some issues of considerable complexity. Moreover, by a sensible division of labour in terms of presentation of the arguments the hearing itself was assisted in being kept within the three day time estimate allotted to it. We also would wish to pay tribute to the most helpful and convenient way in which the various appeal bundles were presented and in which all parties co-operated (although we gather that particular credit is due to Mr de la Poer in this regard).

    Delay

  11. We should say something about the lapse of time which has occurred before these appeals came on for hearing. It is wholly exceptional that an appeal against conviction comes on for hearing before the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) some five years after the trial where applications for leave to appeal are lodged shortly after conviction.

  12. To a very great extent the delays have been occasioned by the various changes in the legal representation for the appellants that have occurred from time to time and the sheer complexity of aspects of the fresh evidence sought to be obtained by the appellants since trial, together with associated funding problems. Further, some of the applications for leave to appeal, whether on the first indictment or second indictment, had in fact been brought out of time (the necessary extensions thereafter being granted). In the event, some grounds were then abandoned at various stages, others added. Directions had previously been given by Hughes LJ (then Vice-President of the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division) during 2011 and 2012 which were not, for various reasons, fully complied with. Even by the beginning of 2014 the cases were still a long way away from being ready: and indeed only then, by direction of the Registrar of Criminal Appeals, was the representation order extended to Slade's new legal team to enable it to instruct voice recognition experts and to prepare the new schedules comprising the CCTV and mobile phone and cell-site evidence. Final perfected Grounds of Appeal, superseding all...

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