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Special report: The return of the supergrass

 

David Rice was shot dead in broad daylight at a seaside car park in 2007. One of the men involved in his killing was jailed for 12 years but had his sentence cut to just 30 months soon afterwards, one of scores of criminals who have been let out early...

 

Murderers, gangsters and international drug dealers are among the serious offenders having their time in prison cut by up to 90 per cent in return for turning "supergrass", an investigation by BBC Panorama with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found.

The rewards have been handed out despite the fact that on a number of occasions, the informer's reliability has been questioned in court.

In one case in February this year, life sentences for two murderers were reduced to just three years in return for information, despite their testimony being described by the judge as "infected with lies".

In another, a minimum 18-year jail term for murder was cut to eight years, even though the jury did not believe the supergrass and failed to convict. In a third instance, in 2007 a major cocaine dealer's sentence was reduced from 17 years to five, despite the case in which he was due to give evidence collapsing before he took the stand.

The revelations raise serious concerns about the deals being done under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Socpa).

Speaking to Panorama, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) stated that informers' jail terms would be cut by more than two-thirds only in a "very exceptional case", following guidance issued by the judge in leading supergrass trials. The CPS stressed that the extent of the sentence discounts was left to the discretion of the judge, and prosecutors could not promise offenders that their jail terms would be cut.

Yet in 49 cases involving supergrasses analysed by the bureau, nearly half of the supergrasses' jail terms were cut by more than two thirds. In more than a quarter of cases, offenders received a discount of more than 80 per cent on their time in prison. In most cases the informants had pleaded guilty to very serious crimes.

The use of supergrasses has always been controversial. In the early 1980s, the system was largely discredited when evidence surfaced that both informants and the police had abused the system, resulting in wrongful convictions and serious offenders getting off lightly.

But informers are seen as a necessary tool in the fight against organised crime. In a move aimed at improving the system by increasing transparency, and enhancing "the credibility of the testimony", so-called "supergrass" deals were formalised as part of Socpa.

Under the Act, informers can receive total or partial immunity from prosecution. Classed as "vulnerable witnesses", they may also be given new homes and identities when they leave prison. Taxpayer-funded protection can amount to more than £500,000 over the course of a typical scheme.

The recent collapse of a number of high-profile Socpa cases has led to doubts that the new system improves on the old. One of the key problems, say critics, is that vast, unprecedented sentence reductions give offenders a huge incentive to manipulate the justice system.

Leading QC Michael Mansfield said supergrasses were "inherently dishonest" witnesses acting in "self-interest because they want some kind of reward", and were sure to be enticed by the discounts on offer. "These people will know about crime, but in order to inveigle their way into their favours they dress it up," he said. "They dress it up in a way that they put people at the scene who weren't there… and of course they have axes to grind, they have vendettas to settle."

The CPS revealed that 158 supergrass deals were signed between January 2006 and June 2011. In 140 of these cases, offenders received reduced sentences. In 18 cases, offenders received total, or partial immunity from prosecution.

The CPS did not disclose details of the cases, but the bureau independently found and analysed 49 cases which took place across the six years that the Act has been in force. Two of the 49 involved full immunity, while in 47 cases the offenders had their jail terms severely reduced.

In one of the first cases under the system, the court outlined that sentence reductions should generally be between one-half and two-thirds. In that case, a getaway driver called Derek Blackburn gave evidence against two men who gunned down gangland rival David "Noddy" Rice in a seafront car park in South Shields, Newcastle.

Blackburn received a much larger discount – 79 per cent. This was justified on appeal as he provided information leading to several convictions, and because he was on the periphery of the crime. His 12-year sentence was cut to two years and six months.

But in some cases the supergrass appears to be at the centre, rather than the periphery of the offence.

In one case involving the 2007 murder of Edward "Teddy" Simpson in Bradford, Socpa witness Sonny Stewart implicated eight people, including himself, in the killing. In an unprecedented move, he had his charge, rather than sentence, reduced. Under the deal he pleaded guilty to manslaughter, not murder. This resulted in a life sentence, with a potential 35-year minimum term, being substituted by a maximum of seven years.

The trial judge told Stewart he was "lucky" to have signed the agreement, and warned the jury: "You may think that if he had been in the dock you would have been asking whether he was guilty of murder." The case has now been passed to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which is considering evidence that Stewart may have been a main perpetrator.

However, the investigation also found instances where the use of a supergrass was very successful. In one, a teenage gang member known only as "Boy X", gave crucial evidence against gunman Sean Mercer in the murder of schoolboy Rhys Jones. His evidence was judged to be so important that he given full immunity from prosecution under Socpa for his role in helping to hide the murder weapon after the killing.

CPS spokesperson Alison Levitt defended Socpa deals, saying they "may sometimes be the only way to convicting very serious people". "There are some extremely serious criminals who are now serving very long sentences as a result of these," she told Panorama.

Supergrass by numbers

158 supergrass deals were signed between January 2006 and June 2011

25 per cent of the cases examined involved the offender's jail term being cut by more than 80 per cent

The cost of protecting a vulnerable witness can exceed £500,000


http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/special-report-the-return-of-the-supergrass-8201325.html


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Telling tales on Thompson trial supergrass

Monday 27 July 1992
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THE career of Dennis David Woodman, a major Crown witness in the Arthur Thompson Jr murder trial at the High Court in Glasgow, is exposed tonight in harsh detail in Granada TV's World In Action.

 

 

yet again on his use by the Scottish authorities.

Woodman, known in England as Wilkinson or by other aliases, gave five days of colourful evidence, claiming Mr Paul Ferris, the accused, had confessed to him while they were in the segregation unit at Barlinnie Prison. However, his testimony was wrecked by incisive cross-examination from Mr Donald Findlay, QC.

Despite a considerable body of better quality evidence in what was Scotland's longest murder trial, the jury acquitted Mr Ferris on all charges.

The use of Woodman, one Crown source later said, meant ''the baby was thrown out with the bath water''.

Mr Steve Bolton, the programme's producer, said yesterday: ''When we first started hearing of Wilkinson/Woodman's use as a witness in theFerris case, we were astonished because we already knew a lot about hisbackground. It was very clear he had reached the end of his shelf life

in the English courts after seven or eight cases.

''In the case of Kevin Wong at Chester Crown Court, the Judge said he would be unhappy if the jury convicted on the evidence of Woodman alone.

Peter Brockelsby was cleared at Leeds Crown Court after other prisoners described Woodman reading court papers beforehand to brief himself. ''His career of lying, aside from the damage he did to individuals, is a black comedy.''

The programme examines why Woodman, now in the protection wing at Peterhead Prison, serving a lengthy sentence for the kidnapping of a Dumfries farmer, began his career as a police informer. It followed an earlier kidnapping accompanied by sadistic treatment of the victim.

Woodman feared a life sentence. However, a witness says on screen, if he could show the Judge he had helped the prosecution in other cases, he could then expect a substantial reduction.

He was held in Risley Remand Centre and, says World In Action, a string of men who had previously protested their innocence suddenly queued up to confess to Woodman. The police and a number of English Judges and juries then accepted his evidence.

World In Action have, however, unearthed another former Risley inmate who speaks of Woodman attempting to get him to go to the police and say he had overheard other criminals admitting crimes.

After Woodman assisted the police, a detective inspector spoke for himin court. For charges of theft, fraud, false imprisonment, indecent assault, and wounding with intent he received only six years.

The programme then describes how Woodman offered appeal lawyers deals to retract his evidence for the Crown if he was paid to do so. Also revealed is the help given to Woodman by the police after he left jail.

After his record as a supergrass was exposed in English newspapers, Woodman said he hoped for police protection and for rehousing. It was five years later that he re-emerged in Scotland.

Glasgow solicitor Peter Forbes says on screen that ''it just seemed inconceivable that anyone would shout details of such a major crime to any other party in the segregation unit and for Paul Ferris to have done it was totally and utterly inconceivable.''

World In Action journalist Andrew Bell said yesterday: ''Only a few weeks ago, John Major was talking about blowing away the cobwebs of secrecy yet whenever we asked anyone in an official position in Scotland to talk about the Ferris case they dived for cover.

''I asked the Crown Office, the procurator-fiscal's office in Glasgow, and Strathclyde Police but none would speak. Strathclyde Police told us that the case was still sub judice but both the Crown Office and the procurator-fiscal's office told us this was nonsense.

''We approached two prison governors to interview prisoners under the more relaxed guidelines which are now in force and both seemed more than happy to let us in. They were jumped on by the Scottish Office. They would give us no reason or tell us who had made the decision.''


http://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/spl/aberdeen/telling-tales-on-thompson-trial-supergrass-1.800876


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Police Ombudsman investigation into UVF collusion claims

Bobby Moffett


Bobby Moffett, a former loyalist prisoner, was shot dead on the Shankill Road in May 2010

 

The police ombudsman in Northern Ireland has launched an investigation into allegations of collusion between the police and senior members of the UVF in the Shankill Road area of Belfast.

A special team has been set up to examine why there have not been charges or convictions in a number of high-profile murders.

The most recent killing being investigated was that of Bobby Moffett.

He was shot dead in May 2010.

This followed a dispute with a senior figure within the UVF.

The International Monitoring Commission said the murder of the former loyalist prisoner was sanctioned by UVF leaders.

The Shankill Road is home to the leadership of the UVF.

It has been claimed for a number of years that senior figures within the organisation have been immune from prosecution because they were police informers.

In a statement to the BBC, the ombudsman confirmed he is examining allegations that police failed to properly investigate a series of fatal shootings in north and west Belfast between 1989 and 2010.

It is understood investigators will examine claims that no one has been charged or convicted in connection with the murders because informers were being protected.

In a statement, the police said: "PSNI are involved in a major investigation into criminality in north and west Belfast involving the UVF which stretches back over a considerable period of time and which runs parallel to the ombudsman investigation Operation Stafford.

"With regard to the investigation into the murder of Bobby Moffett, this remains a live investigation into which police have committed very considerable resources and gone to substantial length to bring charges.

"PSNI has left no stone unturned in the Moffett investigation and is greatly frustrated that it has not been able, thus far, to bring charges of murder against those involved."

Operation Ballast

The deaths being reviewed by the ombudsman are believed to include that of Jackie Coulter, a UDA leader shot dead by the UVF during a loyalist feud in August 2000.

The investigation into the killing of Mr Moffett is also understood to be under review.

Jackie Coulter

Jackie Coulter was shot dead in August 2000

This is the second major investigation by the ombudsman's office into allegations that UVF informers have been protected by the police.

Five years ago, Nuala O'Loan published a report called Operation Ballast.

It said Special Branch officers had protected informers who were part of a gang based in the Mount Vernon area of north Belfast which was linked to 16 murders.

The report was hugely damaging for the police and was strongly criticised by a number of former senior special branch officers.

This investigation is potentially even more damaging. In the past, there have been allegations of collusion involving members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

However, Bobby Moffett was killed just two years ago, so this investigation is examining allegations that his killers were protected by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

If the ombudsman substantiates that claim, it will have serious implications for the police.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20003541


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Reply with quote  #154 
Not surprising neither is it acceptable according to law abiding people murder is murder and people should be punished for commiting the crime no matter who they are.
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 "All we can say about the management of police informants is there are very tight and regulated procedures and processes in place to protect the integrity of the system. The case against Kevin Lane has been extensively reviewed already and the conviction deemed safe".

Hertfordshire Police

Perhaps Kevin Lane's case demonstrates the point quite well....


Mystery files cast doubt over verdict on Robert Magill gangland killing

Kevin Lane has been in jail for 16 years after being found guilty of murder. But did police pervert the course of justice?


 
The new material, if genuine, answers many of their questions. Lane first stood trial in October 1995 with Roger Vincent, who was found not guilty of participating in Magill's murder by direction of the judge. A hung jury was unable to return a verdict on Lane.

Since Lane's conviction at his second trial, evidence has emerged showing Vincent had lengthy discussions with police officers shortly after his arrest. Statements shared with Lane's legal team by a detective sergeant, Christopher Spackman, also confirmed that Spackman had visited Vincent while he was on remand in HMP Woodhill

....

Logs later released by the police showed that during the original Magill murder inquiry they had received more than 20 tip-offs claiming Vincent and Smith had been responsible. They were well known in the criminal world and were suspected of having carried out several killings.

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UNDERWORLD TERM
The term grass comes from the lexicon of the London criminal underworld of the 1930s, to refer to an informer.

The first supergrass was Bertie Smalls in 1973.

The leading member of a gang of London bank robbers after being arrested he offered to help the police by naming his accomplices in return for his liberty. His evidence resulted in 16 convictions.

More recently Darren Mathurin became Britain's first black supergrass with the second trial he testified at ending recently at the Old Bailey.

The 29-year-old drug dealer, with the street name Spider, from the Stonebridge estate in London, has testified at two trials and has had a murder tariff reduced from 22 to eight years.




 


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Dr. Benham Nodjoumi

HC Deb 21 April 1982 vol 22 cc97-8W
Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to ensure that Dr. Benham Nodjoumi, of Iran, who was found guilty of a serious crime and convicted at the Old Bailey on 8 April, will be deported as an undesirable citizen on the completion of his prison sentence.

Mr. Raison

Dr. Benham Nodjoumi was convicted of rape and sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. The question of deportation will be considered nearer the end of his sentence and in the light of all the circumstances at that time.


AKA  Seyed Mohammad Benham Nodjoumi Qajar Alagha

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=sTJxuiiKmd4C&pg=PT194&lpg=PT194&dq=Benham+Nodjoumi&source=bl&ots=-esGZVfTes&sig=myPIwKOkfZ9KqP8rg-1qS_GsAKc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=wy5nUfOyM9OS0QWcmYCQBg&ved=0CD8Q6AEwAg

A TRIO of businessmen have been cleared of flooding the country with millions of illegal cigarettes, smuggled through worldwide ports including the Felixstowe and Ipswich.

Following a trial at Basildon Crown Court, a jury found Benham Qajar Alagha, Ronald Brennan and Michael Philips not guilty of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.

They had been arrested in 2001, after a huge sting mounted by 50 Ipswich-based Customs officers, and accused of being behind one of the biggest cigarette smuggling scams ever discovered in Britain. The trial started back in May 2002 at Ipswich Crown Court.

Alagha, 57, wept loudly in the dock as the verdict was announced.

AKA  Dr Behnam Qajar   https://www.duedil.com/director/912515093/behnam-qajar




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Reply with quote  #158 
Found another link to Ben Alagha

Click on the book link to read and then  Ben Alagha to the search

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vendetta-Turning-Your-Crime-Deadly/dp/1845020618#_

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Reply with quote  #159 
This Bernie O'Mahoney one has beep at it for years P [comp][thumb]
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