TRIAL JUDGE’S SUMMING UP
We now know that prosecuting counsel, Peter Openshaw QC, held a secret meeting with the trial judge, Mr Justice Sachs, on 1st December 1994. This was during the final prosecution and defence speeches but before the judge’s summing up. There is no mention of this meeting on the court log and HM Court Service has confirmed that it did not adhere to the protocol of the time. The defence had no knowledge of it until 2006 when Peter Openshaw mentioned it in a statement he made in relation to Thomas’s leave to appeal hearing. In this same statement he denied that there was any increase in security after he told Sachs that Thomas was responsible for bringing a gun into HMP Manchester.
In Openshaws statement for the leave to appeal hearing, he states that he may have been accompanied in this meeting by one of the investigating police officers to verify the information he gave to Sachs. We are now able to prove, and it has been accepted by the Court of Appeal, that Openshaw’s report to the judge was nothing but a pack of lies, albeit that he may have been duped into making such a report.
One would think that as a matter of honesty and fairness, Openshaw and Sachs should have informed Thomas’s counsel, Mr Richard Ferguson QC and Thomas himself, that there was information that it was being alleged that the gun was for Thomas. Had the prosecutor and judge passed this information on to the defence, then Thomas and his team would have demanded that the trial be stopped and that a police investigation be conducted into the matter by an outside force. Had the defence been given this opportunity, Thomas would have been able to have a new and fair trial at a different venue. And an official investigation into those conspiring to falsely incriminate Thomas, - the drug dealers, their customs handler and his bosses – would have led to arrests and charges in relation to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The integrity of the trial was destroyed from the moment that Openshaw gave Sachs this false information in secret. This meeting, which is not even noted on the court log, has resulted in the most terrible miscarriage of justice.
Sachs’ judgement, and his summing up, were skewed and contaminated by the false premise that Thomas was, in some way, linked to the gun in Strangeways. We have no way of knowing whether or not Openshaw and Sachs discussed any other aspect of the case.
This pack of lies explains why many aspects of the judge’s summing up were highly inaccurate and prejudicial. The most important errors are detailed below:
· He called Howard Ridgeway a completely “independent witness” even though he heard that this man stored weapons for Mitchell.
· He said a (truly) independent schoolgirl witness corroborated Bob McGahey’s evidence – she did not.
· He said that Mr Bailey, another independent witness, stated the car pulled up between approx 2.15 - 3pm. Mr Bailey said in his evidence between 2.50 – 3pm. Sachs misled the jury and disregarded Thomas’s alibi.
· In his summing up, he says that Bob McGahey has immunity. In his evidence McGahey said that he did not have immunity. Sachs goes on to say that Mitchell has no immunity “nor is there any suggestion that there is any in this case, you may think”.
During evidence, DS Thompson said McGahey received immunity after he had spoken to the CPS. Sachs falsely recalled that Thompson said that immunity had not been mentioned until after 26th November 1993 – by which time McGahey had told them everything. This is incorrect. McGahey’s last statement was on 22nd December 1993 in which he claimed Thomas told him: “I’ve done them both”. Importantly this was after he had been given immunity.
Under oath, Detective Superintendent Rod Murray said that he had no knowledge of immunity, which, if true, means either of two prime prosecution witnesses - Thompson or McGahey - committed perjury in the court. The way Sachs summed up the immunity issue was completely confusing and the jury would not have known whether there was or was not immunity. Indeed to this day we have been unable to get a written answer to this question.
· Sachs summed up incorrectly concerning the lack of shotgun residue in the car.
The forensic scientist, Dr King, whose evidence was read out in court, was totally misquoted by Sachs in his summing up. Sachs states, “In King’s experience, it is seldom possible to detect residues in a vehicle that has only been used to carry the firearms”. However, in his statement dated 17th December 1993, Dr King said that “it is seldom possible to detect residues in a vehicle that has only been used to carry a firer of a gun”. Dr King was never told that, according to Mitchell, the recently fired sawn-off shotgun was supposed to have been placed on the front passenger seat of the red Sierra. If Mitchell was telling the truth, there should have been chemical residues in abundance. Forensic scientists found no traces in the recovered red Sierra. This adds significantly to the body of evidence that demonstrates that Mitchell lied.
· When the judge mentions the admissions to the jury he says “I do not propose to refer to them any more because you have them in front of you”. Those admissions state that Thomas had nothing to do with Chestergate and that the Crown accepted this. Therefore why did the judge add, on Page 79 of his summing up, "ask yourselves do you think it is important why he had not been to see the powers that be"?
This summing up, which was riddled with factual inaccuracies, was extremely prejudicial and was not challenged at the time of the trial. The only explanation can be that the lies (now accepted to be so by the police, the Court of Appeal and the prosecution) told to Sachs by Openshaw, in private, no doubt contaminated his mindset and had an adverse effect on his summing up.