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Barrister ‘collapses’ during trial after being accused of misleading court by opponent

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Voir dire Oh dear

A barrister has fainted at the witness stand after being accused of misleading the court, it’s been reported.

According to Sunday Times (£) report, David Matthew, a junior barrister specialising in crime, keeled over when questioned about his alleged failure to disclose a critical tape recording to defence lawyers in a drugs trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

Judge Francis Laird QC found Matthew’s behaviour “inexcusable”, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) position “implausible” and said that the police failure to disclose the tape had been “deliberate”, the report says. Together, they had acted in a way that was an “affront to the integrity of the trial”.

The trial of Eyhaz Mahboob and Tahir Iqbal, both convicted cocaine and heroin importers, was abandoned earlier this month after CPS lawyers were forced to produce a tape recording that hadn’t been disclosed to the other side.

Mahboob and Iqbal were alleged to have been the ringleaders of an organised crime network involving five other gang members. The two Britons of Pakistani descent were charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs but fiercely denied their involvement.

Their roles, it was alleged, were approved during a meeting in January 2017 with a crime lord in HM Prison Birmingham. But it later emerged mid-trial that police had bugged the duo’s meeting, according to reports. When the tape was disclosed, there was no talk about the alleged drugs conspiracy, but instead the discussion included disgust at cockroaches in the prison and how an inmate missed his family.

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In a highly unusual sequence of events, the judge ordered a voir dire (a trial within a trial) and compelled Matthew to the witness stand to account for what he believed to be “serious errors of judgment”. The barrister took the stand but promptly collapsed when Stephen Kamlish QC, Iqbal’s defence lawyer, accused him of dishonestly misleading the court.

According to the report, Matthew showed visible signs of distress, which prompted Laird to ask: “Would you like to sit down?” He then slumped to the floor to gasps from the packed public gallery and had to be helped by a reporter, who apparently found him unconscious and curled up in a ball in the witness box. Paramedics attended to Matthew, who eventually resumed giving evidence and denied misleading the court.

In his ruling, Laird reportedly said:

“Within the prosecuting team a disregard for its duty in relation to disclosure had been allowed to fester. The usual checks and balances within a prosecuting team were not operational. The result was an unfair trial… and a significant amount of court time wasted.”

This comes after a sharp rise in failed prosecutions due to police and CPS failure to disclose evidence that could help suspects adequately defend themselves. Last year 916 people had charges dropped over a failure to disclose evidence — a rise of 70% in two years.

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33 Comments

Anonymous

Witness stand?

Was the Court sitting in America?

(64)(3)

Buddy Holly (Dec’d)

🎼 Arrested on charges of unemployment he was sittin’ in the witness stand…”🎶

(1)(1)

loljkm8

Can’t stand the heat? Get outta’ the kitchen!

(4)(7)

Anonymous

Oh, the drama!

(5)(0)

Anonymous

What a fucking pussy.

(19)(14)

Captain Concern

Imagine his career flashed before his eyes.

(24)(1)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(6)

Anon

Questions of disclosure should not, strictly speaking, be a matter for counsel. Whilst counsel may assist, the primary responsibility for ensuring that proper disclosure is made falls upon the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. The only reason that counsel are having to take on this role (for which they are singularly ill-equipped) is because of the hollowing-out of the two professions which are supposed to assist them. It goes without saying that counsel are advocates, not litigators, and they should essentially be able to rely upon their instructions for anything falling outside the strict remit of advocacy. Counsel should also be able to assume that disclosure has reached a settled state by the time the trial commences, and should not be left scrabbling around mid-trial to disclose material that should have been disclosed a long time ago.

(42)(12)

Captain Concern

This should be the case, but anyone who has prosecuted in the last 10 years will have dealt with disclosure mid trial on a very regular basis. And sometimes it is very difficult to advise the police and/or the CPS that evidence has to be disclosed when they say it need not be.

Wonder whether this will result in an IPCC complaint and a Bar misconduct hearing.

(15)(2)

Anonymous

Disclosure is an issue for Counsel, insofar as he is aware that there is evidence that hasn’t been disclosed. If he is not aware, then he cannot be accountable and it should fall to the Police and/or CPS.

If Counsel was aware, and advised that disclosure was not appropriate, then he should divulge the reasoning for this to the Court and to his regulator.

If Counsel was aware, advised the CPS/Police that disclosure was required and they refused/failed to disclose it, then Counsel should cease acting and withdrawn himself from the matter at the earliest opportunity.

(29)(0)

Anonymous

No, of course counsel cannot decide whether or not to disclose something. But if counsel knows that evidence exists which directly contradicts his/her party’s case, then he/she cannot continue to put that case. It’s not rocket science.

(13)(1)

Real barrister

Disclosure is a matter for counsel where a damaging document had not been disclosed, and needs to be disclosed then a barrister must a) obtain permission from the client to disclose it; or b) withdraw from the case on the basis they are professionally embarrassed.

Not my problem gov is no defence.

(18)(1)

Anonymous

The tape recording was clearly disclosable as it is exculpatory and assists the Defence. If David Matthew was required by the judge to give evidence regarding the non-disclosure, he must have been made aware of it and must have decided (wrongly) that it was not disclosable as it didn’t meet the test for disclosure in the CPIA and the Code of Practice that it undermined the Prosecution case or might otherwise assist the Defence. Presumably he decided that it was irrelevant and didn’t assist the Defence because the taped conversation included no reference to the drugs conspiracy. If he wasn’t made aware of the tape recording, he would have just blamed the police and the CPS. The police and the CPS must have been aware of the recording and presumably sought Counsel’s advice which was that the disclosure obligations did not engage. I don’t think this is tantamount to willfully misleading the court, rather, it was at best a wrong decision and at worst incompetence and poor judgment by Counsel.

(4)(3)

Anonymous

Unless it’s privileged or otherwise inadmissible, wouldn’t you be better off disclosing it?? Why take the risk.

(1)(0)

Not Amused

The rot started when the prosecution stopped trying to be impartial and started to try to ‘win’.

Procedural rules were changed to benefit the state. The public were told how ‘low’ conviction rates were. Politicians got involved and worse, ambitious politicians saw things like the job of the DPP, not as a matter of service to the nation, but as a stepping stone to political power.

We have sleep walked in to authoritarian statism and it needs to stop. The state is not infallible. It is not father. It is not mother. It is just as capable of being wrong, incompetent or corrupt as anyone else. We need to return to a humble state which serves the people.

(45)(3)

Anonymous

Ah yes that golden age where there no miscarriages of justice! The police were honest, the judge was a towering Hercules of justice, and the state timid and benign. When was that again? Birmingham Six anyone?

The idea that there was once a time in which police didn’t conceal evidence from the defence and prosecutors didn’t vigorously pursue convictions is a fantasy worthy of Peter Hitchens. Remember that it was only in 1997 that the Met was found to be “institutionally racist” following the murder of Steven Lawrence.

Procedural rules see-saw between changes that favour defendants and changes that favour the prosecution, according to the political vibe of the day and changes in how evidence is gathered and presented. I don’t have statistics on conviction rates in crown court trials but I’d be surprised if they’ve changed drastically over time.

(10)(6)

Anonymous

It’s completely appropriate that a prosecuting team should try to win – it is their job to put the state’s case. However, they obviously have to follow the rules of court and the law governing procedure when doing so – in the same way that everyone has to do this. What has (allegedly) happened here is that the team broke the law. It’s not that they were trying to win that’s the problem, it’s that they were cheating.

(4)(13)

Anonymous

*Larry David pretending to faint in Curb Your Enthusiasm GIF*

(9)(0)

Anonymous

The whole criminal justice system is a shambles. A complete fucking shambles.

(16)(0)

Anonymous

He who asserts must prove…

(4)(2)

Anonymous

You know all those solicitors in small firms who faked documents to pretend they had met deadlines who were struck off ?

Well, I’ll be amazed if anything happens here to the cps solicitors here. We shall see.

I also wonder how the prosecutors got caught out. Who blabbed about the tape , late in the day ?

(13)(0)

Ciaran Goggins

Interesting bit of voir dire and non disclosure in Rees and others v The Met. Court of Appeal verdict soon. Cressida Dick to get her P.45?

(3)(2)

Anonymous

Someone is trying to audition for a place on Suits, now that Megan has left the set.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Harvey Sepctre would know what to do!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

so would the rod, Harvey Sceptre

and the ghost, Harvey Spectre

maybe even the character, Harvey Specter

Thank you, thank you, you are too kind

(6)(0)

Anonymous

This went right over my head

(0)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Martin

At the root of disclosure is trust and honesty. If it becomes routine for a professional opponent to lie to you either positively or by omission then our criminal “ justice” system will become something we should all be ashamed of.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

It already is….

(4)(2)

Anonymous

…Mahboob

Great name

(9)(1)

Anonymous

o behn ki lund maro, sala!

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Mahboob

(0)(0)

Anonymous

An enthusiastic prosecutor who wholeheartedly embraced our adversarial system if memory serves me right. Am astonished that he should face such allegations.

(2)(2)

Comments are closed.