Wednesday, 29 August 2018
A Pernicious Prosecution
Conviction – or Corruption?
“It is essential that independent men question those in power”
– Adlai Stevenson, US Ambassador to the UN
While the English legal system is held in high regard by many people, and almost all of the legal profession (who earn their livings from it) it looks completely different from the inside, especially when you have been through its mincer, accused of a crime.
If I had been asked to read this document a few years ago I would not have believed it. Now I know such things can – and do - happen under the British criminal justice system.
These are just some of the English legal system’s inescapable shortcomings:
- Most important of all, it subscribes to the highly selective use of language which Humpty Dumpy described to Alice: ‘Words mean what I choose them to mean – neither more nor less’. Never more telling than when the state is deciding which criminal charges to bring.
- The more money you have available the better your chances of a fair trial. There is a direct and irrefutable correlation between the two. The same applies to appeals.
- Criminal cases fought by counsel funded by legal aid have no choice but to minimise the time spent researching the defence case and seeking evidence.
- A parliamentary justice select committee described the current situation as “fundamentally unfair” to the defence. The prospects for legally-aided defendants are seriously damaged – despite the claim that English law is scrupulously fair and balanced. Today it is no such thing.
- Defence teams funded privately, by or for the defendant, have no limitations on time spent researching their defence case.
- The DPP refuses to reveal the success rate of defence teams on legal aid – which rather suggests there is a failure rate they want to hide.
- “The criminal justice system is close to breaking point” – Parliamentary Report, May 2016.
- Leading counsel: “I won because I told a better story”
- The essential thrust of English court proceedings is argument and confrontation – not seeking the facts and reaching a just conclusion. Furthermore, the prosecution always leads and inevitably has the defence on the back foot from the start. “Does pitting the state against the accused in a winner-takes-all war of attrition do more harm than good?” – Secret Barrister 2018.
- The jury is not made up of your peers - merely the last 12 people off the street.
All of which leaves an inescapable smell of corruption or incompetence (or both) and underlines the calculated deviousness of the legal processes behind the scenes when my trial was fast-forwarded by many months to April 2015. My lawyers had told me the trial would take place at least 18 months later, such was the pressure of cases awaiting trial. I told them they were wrong. They did not believe me.
But my cynicism was quickly justified. With a general election due in May my trial date was fast forwarded to ensure UKIP’s reputation received maximum damage from press coverage of the evidence offered by the prosecution. As we shall see later the judge ensured defence evidence came out when its impact on the election result would be minimal or non-existent.
The EU Investigates Me
Early in my time in the European Parliament the senior management of OLAF attended a meeting of the Budget Control committee, on which I sat. OLAF’s role was to investigate financial impropriety within the European Commission. OLAF’s Director, Dr Brunner (a German lawyer) led the delegation. I took an early opportunity to question OLAF’s apparent lack of investigative vigour and its paucity of successful prosecutions. Dr Brunner immediately replied: “We don’t snoop on our friends”. That meeting, and those words, will still be on the public record in Brussels – or they should be! I did not let Dr Brunner ever forget those words.
Much later in my term I sent Dr Brunner a list of 50 specific questions about EU fraud and OLAF’s role – or lack of it. In reply I received a seriously threatening letter from Brunner’s eventual successor which was clearly intended to shut me up. It did not.
However, it became clear later that OLAF had started investigating my activities towards the end of my parliamentary term and continued to collect information and data about my research work.
But I was not alone. Many other anti-EU MEPs were threatened and investigated by OLAF over the years. The risk was part of the job, and we sometimes joked about it. But I was never directly challenged, despite regularly causing OLAF grief. After all, I had nothing to hide beyond the names of my many whistle-blowers. No problem!
However, publication of my memoirs A Mote in Brussels’ Eye in 2013 changed everything. OLAF’s files on me must have formed part of the brief given to the British government after publication.
An Unlawful Police Raid
My memoirs were published in January 2013, just over three years after I had left the European Parliament. Without doubt it was the biggest and most thorough book about EU corruption ever published at the time. It was available as an eBook and demand for it was immediate.
But barely five weeks later, in early March, nine policemen arrived at my front door, unannounced and unexpected, with a search warrant to ransack my home. The warrant had been signed by an unknown hand, the signature was indecipherable and the senior officer present either could not, or would not, identify the signature, or the authority. I later made a formal complaint to the newly appointed Hampshire Police Commissioner, who refused to get involved.
It was not difficult to research the illegality of what happened that day.
In 1765 (Entick v Carrington) the courts ruled that seizure of papers from a publisher was an exercise in ‘arbitrary power’ and a breach of Magna Carta. That ruling was – in some respects - the foundation of British freedom of speech, certainly in matters relating to the press. Magna Carta predates Parliament by more than half a century. It was a contract directly between the Monarch and the people. Parliament cannot interfere with it. Nor can the EU or Hampshire Constabulary
I am a professional author and have become a self-publisher, at least with some of my books. So seizure of my papers under a search warrant of any authority, let alone a questionable one, in 2013 was unlawful.
For the record, the search of our home yielded nothing of any consequence whatsoever – as demonstrated by the numerous copies returned to me immediately afterwards.
EU or UK LAW?
The EU’s relationship with member states required that OLAF brief the British government, who in turn briefed Hampshire police. Was the question raised then – or ever - about the possibility that what was lawful in Brussels being unlawful under English law? It should have occurred quite early in these briefings, and - if so – would have raised serious questions about the law to be used. But did it? No wonder it took another two years before the prosecution was satisfied it could blur the difference between the two jurisdictions sufficient to win a conviction.
There is a clear difference between the law in England and what passes for EU law. Under EU law, certainly during my time in the European Parliament (2004-09), an MEP’s allowances were available at his discretion. The bureaucrats who managed Parliamentary administration had no powers to check or control their use – and rightly so.
So English law was not applicable. Under the then regulations governing the use by MEPs of their allowances we were free to pursue any lines of enquiry we liked. Indeed, that was the very purpose of the allowances! The EU had no power to stop us. More importantly, that was the legal situation under what the EU called ‘law’.
Furthermore, any surplus cash accumulated by MEPs from the gross over-payment of fixed expenses (travel, hotels, etc) was available to be used as we chose – exactly as we used our taxed income.
Abuse of Process
To get around this entirely proper and massive legal obstacle, the key people in London and Brussels chose to manipulate court procedures to ensure that a fair trial based on all the relevant evidence was impossible.
Not only did the prosecution act in bad faith but they did so, perhaps somewhat unknowingly, under the direction of judicial forces further up the food chain. Those forces were driven by the European Commission, using the British legal system to enforce a verdict which protected the essential interests of the EU. The details follow.
The EU’s Objectives
The EU wanted to achieve two ends:
It wanted the names of the many whistle-blowers from within the Brussels system who had volunteered their help and information once they learned of my objective to hold the EU’s bureaucracy to account. These were mostly middle-ranking career officials, members of staff who were also decent people, horrified at what they had seen and heard from the activities of their bosses. They were appalled at the widespread corruption and gross misuse of taxpayers’ money which was not just tolerated by the most senior bureaucrats in Brussels, but controlled by many of them. They all had my word that I would never reveal the names of my sources.
2. A conviction for fraud (the misuse of my allowances) would at least discredit the messenger, even if the EU had no answer to the message.
This stratagem was greatly aided by ignoring the fact that the ‘crimes’ I was supposed to have committed were not crimes at all.
When I arrived in Brussels as a newly elected MEP in 2004 I had no track record in politics, European or British, beyond several speeches, two small books which attempted to provide a simple guide to the EU, and an unfinished video. My status changed dramatically within weeks. The trigger was my invitation to Marta Andreasen, the former Chief Accountant to the European Commission – and the only qualified accountant ever to hold the job – who had been indefinitely suspended for asking too many of the wrong questions. Who better to ask help hold the European Commission to account? Within days a steady stream of middle-ranking members of the Commission’s staff started to knock on my door, offering help, advice and information. Bureaucrats perhaps, but they were honourable men and women who knew what was going on and also knew it was profoundly wrong.
They wanted the EU’s endemic and systematic corruption exposed and stopped. Marta’s presence on my team provided the comfort blanket they needed if they were to spill the beans. A steady stream of raw data continued to flow into my office throughout my five years. Virtually all of it had subsequently to be checked, developed and verified before I could put down a written question to the Commission or raise an issue in committee or plenary session. Early on, one of them coined the phrase “institutionalised corruption”. It was never bettered.
All this scrutiny took a great deal of time – and money - and had to be conducted in the utmost confidence. Every whistle-blower had my personal word that his/her identity was safe with me – a promise I kept to the full, despite the ultimate consequences. They had exposed themselves to great personal risk. I could do no less.
The equation was, and is, clear. Whistle-blowers will not come forward if their anonymity is not assured. Marta was a different case as she had already been suspended for being a nosy-parker. All the others who fed me information were still working for the Commission.
Both then, and now, there was no defence “in the public interest”. Later, the head of the UK’s Criminal Prosecution Service, Keir Starmer, made public his view that such a defence should be available to whistle-blowers - but it wasn’t then and isn’t now.
All of which underlines the endless subterfuges I and others were obliged to use to cover the financial tracks we employed. Little wonder the EU and British government seized on such financial manoeuvring to build a case against me. Furthermore, almost by definition I could offer no defence, and they knew it. My only defence was to name names, and that was off-limits.
With hindsight it is possible my defence could – and should - have made a great deal of the whistle-blower issue, and my refusal to name them. That, after all, was crucial to my defence. Whistle-blowers were the source of much of the detail in A Mote in Brussels’ Eye. The whistle-blower issue could - and should – have dominated the whole trial. Perhaps Marta Andreasen might not have been willing to appear for the defence since – under oath - the EU would have used the opportunity to question her ruthlessly on her own investigations, while trying to damage her credibility.
Evidence Delivered - And Ignored
Three boxes of the most sensitive and important evidence we collected about EU corruption and the mis-use of British tax-payers funds were passed on to the British authorities who might reasonably have been expected to take a serious interest in the contents. Much of this material concerned the EU’s systematic and endemic misuse of public funds, a significant proportion of which had come from British taxpayers. On two occasions a box of these documents - some of which had previously been denied, or declared not to exist – were delivered directly into the hands of the Head of the Serious Fraud Squad in London. A third box was hand-delivered to New Scotland Yard since it contained material with criminal implications. All three boxes were totally ignored by the SFO and New Scotland Yard. Nothing happened.
Some time later I met the head of the SFO and asked for the boxes back. He opened them in my presence. It was immediately obvious the papers were still in exactly the same compilation as the day they were delivered. They had never so much as been rummaged through. As for examining them,…no chance. No doubt after consultation with various other potentially interested government departments, and with each other, a policy decision had been taken to ignore my boxes of evidence of corruption at the top of the EU. Least said, soonest mended! Nobody at the top of the British government wanted waves made about our relationship with, or membership of, the EU.
Facts – Manipulation – and Consequences
The UK prosecution’s calculated decision to ignore the EU’s own laws on the use of MEPs’ allowances and expenses meant they could consider all my expenditure as potentially fraudulent.
I was a sitting duck.
This technique of switching jurisdictions was used again successfully years later when the British judicial system disbarred the solicitor who advised me when the EU first tried to get me thrown out of the European Parliament. But more on that later.
In the end I was convicted on several counts based on allegations of fraud and related offences allegedly committed in the EU. The exact number of counts, and therefore the validity of the verdicts, is further open to serious doubt, following revelations admitted by the prosecution after the trial. More on that later as well.
The evidence permitted at my trial, both in terms of content and timing, was all focussed on damaging the UKIP vote during the peak electioneering period immediately before the General Election on Thursday 7 May 2015. At the same time it was also intended to destroy my reputation as an investigative author.
The one good outcome of the trial was that the EU was powerfully reminded that shooting the messenger tends to reinforce the message. Sales of A Mote in Brussels’ Eye shot up on both sides of the channel. More people than ever now knew just how irredeemably corrupt the EU’s powerful bureaucracy was and understood the impossibility of reform. The case for what became Brexit had taken a big step forward. The EU had fired the only weapon at their disposal, but the result had been to increase awareness of their unscrupulous racketeering.
On the other hand, the inevitable consequence of war are casualties. I was at war with the EU. My trial was a form of revenge for the damage I had inflicted on them, their lack of credibility and their now demonstrable unsuitability to govern. As well as a custodial sentence English law was pressured to seize all my assets to meet financial compensation demanded by the EU.
The biggest casualty was my wife – an entirely innocent party. The most steadfastly honest and honourable person I have ever known. As a result of my conviction, and through absolutely no fault of her own whatsoever, she lost her home and half our collective assets.
An Arraignment – Re-arraignments – and Confusion
I was never arrested and charged under caution. The first I knew about a prosecution was when I received a “Written Charge and Requisition” which listed nine charges. I was to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on 3 November 2014. When I arrived at court I was arraigned on the nine charges, all of which were alleged to have occurred during my time as an MEP, more than five years previously. The allegations included misconduct in public office, acquiring criminal property, deception and false accounting. Three of the charges were alternatives. All nine were read to me in full and I pleaded not guilty. I was immediately bailed, to appear before a Crown Court at a date to be set.
The trial started at Southwark Crown Court on Monday 20 April 2015, scheduled to last four weeks.
Five days before the trial started I was allegedly re-arraigned. A letter from Southwark Crown Court dated 22 July 2016, signed by T Conlan, administrative officer, states that I was arraigned on a new and totally different set of 13 charges on 15 April 2015. That is untrue. I was not arraigned – or charged – on that day. I was not even in London on that particular day. Where and exactly when such an event is alleged to have occurred is in serious doubt. I was certainly not present.
Unlike the original charges, which were mainly under the Theft Act, these new charges were under the Fraud Act, one of Forgery and two under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The fact that they were fundamentally different in law from the original charges was not explained at the time.
However, many months later I became aware that prosecution lawyers much prefer to use the Fraud Act 2006 rather than the Theft Act 1968 because the Fraud Act removes many lines of defence argument, including ‘justification’. Specifically, my defence was that I was doing the job I was elected to do, using my allowances and expenses for the purpose intended by the EU’s own regulations. But that was no defence at all under the Fraud Act, although it would have been accepted under the Theft Act. Whether the jury would have been up to such subtleties is quite another matter.
However, worse was to come. I learned long after the trial that, on 6 May 2015 (three weeks into the trial), an indictment of 11 new and different charges was produced. Crucially I was never arraigned on them – nor charged with them. Their very existence only came to light after the trial, many months later.
This further confusion came to light in July 2016 when I was sent, apparently in error, a copy of the Court Log (PNC record). This shows that, during the third week of the four-week trial (on 6 May 2015 to be precise) the charges against me were changed again. There were now 11 new and different charges – eight under the Theft Act, two under the Fraud Act, and two under the Proceeds of Crime Act. One charge was now numbered 1a, without explanation.
A crucial question arises: what – if anything – was the status of those new charges? And since they were never put to me I was never given the opportunity to respond – as the law demands.
Nonetheless, I discovered after the trial had concluded that the jury had found me guilty of the 11 new charges I knew nothing about. Whether they had been briefed on the new charges, or knew that I was unaware of them, remains unknown. Despite the Court Log (PNC record) showing them dated 6 May 2015, those charges were never put to me in court or anywhere else.
The implications and potential consequences of this situation are huge – possibly catastrophic from a legal point of view. Any new charges surely have the immediate effect of negating any previous charges.
The Court Log (PNC record) shows an arraignment on 6 May 2015 – the day before the General Election. The trial was into its third week. I have no memory of any such event which – in the circumstances – might just have caught my undivided attention!
It therefore appears that two unlawful scenarios formed the basis of the legal processes in court between 6 May 2015 and the end of the trial on the 15th:
a) The jury and I believed that the charges put to me on 3 November 2014 (or possible the new charges which were allegedly put to me five days before the start of the trial on 20 April 2015) were the basis for the arguments during the trial and the verdicts at the end;
b) A new set of charges dated 6 May 2015 were being used by the judge, prosecution and defence lawyers without my knowing, nor having been arraigned, nor having entered any plea in defence.
Both sets of circumstances appear to be mutually exclusive, with each rendering the other invalid, if not actually unlawful.
Several crucial questions arise.
i) Given these circumstances, was the trial itself rendered unlawful?
ii) Given the highly questionable arraignment procedures before and during those four weeks, some of which would appear to have been hidden from me, and possibly the jury, should the trial have been stopped?
iii) Should the entire process and outcome now be quashed?
After the trial my attention was drawn to the fact that the judge – Jeremy Stuart-Smith – must have known of me. Indeed we might well have socialised together - and with others – on numerous occasions. We were both playing members of The Cricket Society, but at different times. However, I was a particularly high-profile member, not least as a broadcaster and commentator on the game.
Specifically, I was also well-known as the winner of the Society’s ‘Cricket Book of the Year’ award for my history of the evolution of the modern game The Glory Days of Cricket. As a result I was invited to address many regional and national meetings of the Society – and other cricket-related associations, including county clubs. Always after such talks members of the audience engage the speaker in conversation during drinks afterwards. So it is entirely possible Mr Stuart-Smith attended one of my talks. He would have known me but I not him.
Equally it is entirely possible Mr Stuart-Smith did not attend any of them. But it is inconceivable that – as an active player and supporter - he was unaware of me and my place in the history of the game. Apart from any other possible source he would have read of me in the Cricket Society’s quarterly journal in which my name frequently appeared.
Therefore we could, and possibly did, meet socially and he most certainly would have known who I was. My unusual name would have seen to that.
Despite all of which Mr Stuart-Smith made no reference to these facts in court and – at the time – I was unaware of the connections. So I and my legal team were deprived of the opportunity to raise them and question his suitability to preside.
Quite why Mr Stuart-Smith was given the job of presiding over my trial was – and remains – a mystery, given his background. But years later it became apparent why Mr Stuart-Smith was given the job. Criminal trials were not his field. He specialised in hearing cases involving insurance contracts, the law of tort (causing civil harm), and resolving technical legal disputes, all of which is about as far away from EU and UK criminal law as you could get. But, as we have already seen, he made some extraordinary rulings during the trial which doubtless helped the jury reach the ‘correct’ verdict. He had been parachuted in as a safe pair of hands.
Opening his sentencing remarks on 13 July 2015 the judge referred to my being found guilty “on all 12 counts on the indictment”. That statement was wrong. It was either nine (before the trial), 11 (allegedly at the start of the trial) or 13 (at the end of the trial). But it was never 12.
Much of the rest of his 4000+ word diatribe lambasted at me in the dock described another person altogether. It was a blatant attempt at character assassination. At one point I found myself looking around to see who he was talking about – but there was no-one else there.
His purpose was crystal clear. What he said was not really intended for my ears. It was aimed firmly at the media across the European Union – and the pro-EU media in the UK of course. No doubt, in his terms, he scored a bullseye.
The convictions themselves, and Mr Stuart-Smith’s vicious sentencing remarks, must have left the Commissioners in Brussels feeling well satisfied. They might not have been able to destroy my book about the EU’s institutionalised corruption, but at least the credibility of the author had been severely damaged – if not destroyed. But, as we have seen already, that expected bonus for the EU was spectacularly unsuccessful. Sales of my book shot up on both sides of the channel. More people than ever now knew in detail of the irredeemable corruption of the EU.
Within a year or so Mr Stuart-Smith was appointed to the High Court, and rewarded with a knighthood. He also stopped playing for the Cricket Society. On the other hand, what his behaviour did for the credibility of the British criminal justice system is something else again.
A Trial Driven by Politics
Four issues at my trial arose directly from the politics involved:
a) Having been elected to the European Parliament on an anti-EU ticket in 2004 I used my professional skills as an investigative journalist to hold the European Commission to account. I quickly found that the former chief accountant of the Commission, Marta Andreasen, was only too willing to join me. She was the only qualified accountant ever to get the job, and had been suspended after only a few months – for asking too many difficult questions in high places. Suspended on full pay, she was now stuck in a jobless limbo, unable to seek unemployment elsewhere.
She agreed to advise me on what has already been described as embedded institutionalised corruption. We were quickly joined by one of the UK’s top forensic accountants, who volunteered his services. Both would only accept expenses.
As already mentioned, within months we had enough well-documented material to take a box-full of indisputable evidence of EU corruption in high places to the Serious Fraud Office in London. Some two years later another box-full of further evidence was delivered to the SFO. As I discovered much later, neither was so much as read through. The material was undisturbed. On a third occasion another box of evidence of EU corruption – this one with direct connections to the UK government - was delivered to New Scotland Yard. Again, no action whatsoever followed.
When my trial defence was being prepared my legal team told me we could not call the head of the SFO (successively Messrs Green and Alderman), or Assistant Commissioner Yates of New Scotland Yard as witnesses for the defence. Nor would my lawyers demand access to the contents of those boxes of evidence. That entire line of defence was to be ignored. It was deliberately swept under the carpet – on the instructions of, or with the collusion of – I know not whom to this day.
Much worse was the failure of my defence team to call Marta Andreasen as a defence witness. They offered a lame excuse suggesting she might not be credible since she was now a Tory MEP. Presumably they had talked to her at length to check her demeanour – though I somehow doubt it.
b) The other corner-stone of my defence was my eBook, A Mote in Brussels’ Eye, published in January 2013. Based entirely on my daily diaries during my five years as an MEP, my memoirs provided a contemporaneous account of my activities throughout. Most importantly, I sat as a fully engaged independent member of both the European Parliament’s Budget Control Committee and Constitutional Affairs Committee, although neither committee allowed me a vote. This was because I had not been elected a member but had been obliged to sit ex-officio.
I was elected to the Transport Committee and attended occasionally, as time permitted. Later in my term I sat on a temporary committee set up to investigate the conditions in Northern Cyrus which had been occupied by the Turkish army for many years despite the entire island being part of the EU.
My book is still on the market via the internet. In it are scores of my 400+ written questions to the European Commission and their usually evasive answers, and many of my one-minute speeches in the European Parliament. All are also on the public record in Brussels to this day and in all official languages.
This material was the cornerstone of my defence – and more than justified the otherwise unaccounted-for expenditure of my various allowances. In any case, the whole point of the allowances was – at the time – to allow MEPs to use such financial resources to investigate any aspects of the EU’s activities which concerned or interested them. Even more to the point was the lack of any obligation to account for such expenditure – and quite right too. The whole point of our being elected was to allow the EU’s version of democracy to function freely. (Mind you, after my activities came to light those rules were quickly tightened up and the use of parliamentary allowances had to be approved and fully accounted for. So much for true democracy.)
I told my defence team that my book was the platform on which to build my defence. They told me that the judge had told them that it would be rejected as ‘hearsay’! The fact that it was based entirely on my daily diary and contemporaneous notes, and that I was and still am a professional in the sense of having spent a working lifetime collecting, analysing and presenting information in writing – all that apparently counted for nothing. At the start of the trial they again said the judge had thrown my book out as ‘hearsay’ – and that was an end of the matter. If that was true, he did not have the courtesy to say it in my hearing.
Despite that, my meticulous accusations against the EU stand. They include incontrovertible evidence of institutionalised corruption by EU officials; proof of systematic looting of tax-payers money; the deliberate dilution of national identities by mass immigration; the EU’s funding of illegal raw uranium exports from the former Belgium Congo to Iran (whist it was a proscribed country); the establishment of the EU’s Global Security Fund – essentially a private slush fund under the control of EU bureaucrats; and European tax-payers money being used to fiancé Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
Before addressing the other two issues, a detour…
Age and Memory
Ever since I was a young man people have told me how young I look. These days strangers usually under-estimate my age by anything up to 15 years. People in their 80s are assumed to be white-haired, crippled with arthritis, demented or going that way, and looking their age…and some.
But I do not, and I am well aware how fortunate I am. Except, of course, when it counts against me. Undoubtedly that is what happened at my trial.
For several years now I have had memory problems and have sought specialist medical opinion and advice. My legal team refused to put any of this to the judge. As a result I found myself given evidence in my defence over several days (admittedly with short breaks) but without access to any records, notes or copies of any of my books about the EU, or even the book which had triggered the prosecution, A Mote in Brussels’ Eye.
Consequently I was often slow to answer questions from the prosecution (and the judge) as I struggled to remember at all, let alone with accuracy, the answers to issues and questions they chose to raise. I often hesitated and/or expressed uncertainty. How could I do otherwise in such circumstances? Trying to be accurate and precise was a mental nightmare, especially as the means to giving clear and accurate answers had been deliberately withheld. As an old man I was expected by the legal system to remember everything in full and exactly, and to respond promptly to every question. Impossible. Demonstrably impossible.
I obviously gave the jury (and everyone else) an impression of evasiveness at the very least. Of course they mistrusted evidence given in such a manner. I could see it in their eyes, and could no absolutely nothing about it.
Yet at no point (beyond the judge’s references to my needing a break) was my medical or mental condition explained, nor its being the cause of my hesitation and uncertainty. Neither was the impact of my high blood pressure, which I suffer from under normal circumstances, and for which I have taken daily medication for years. Yet it is a well-established medical fact that high blood pressure reduces the ability to think clearly or respond rationally.
The issue of my mental and medical conditions was discussed by my legal team several times and they were adamant that they would not raise them either with the judge or as part of my defence.
That decision was another big mistake by my legal team, and a seriously damaging error of judgement. It effectively guaranteed a guilty verdict.
A Trial Driven by Politics (part 2)
The effect of these judicial decisions was that my defence was reduced to almost nothing. So, when it was eventually my turn in the witness box I was reduced to describing what I had done, but without producing or demonstrating any proof. The jury had been deliberately prevented from hearing in detail any of my written questions to the Commission, or their evasive answers, all of which would have highlighted the financial and executive mis-management I had uncovered. Such evidence would undoubtedly have shown how I had used my allowances to good effect and in the best interests of my constituents – and all the other British taxpayers – who were fully entitled to know how their taxes were being used (or misused) by the EU.
The political ‘management’ of my book during the trial was further evidenced at the end of the fourth – and last – week. The General Election was over, UKIP’s vote had undoubtedly been damaged by media coverage.
Then, out of the blue and without any warning, the judge suddenly announced that he would allow a few extracts from my book to be printed off and distributed to the jury. But he would decide which, and those essentially related to my research work! None of my written questions were allowed.
By the time this concession was made – on the Thursday of the last week - the jury had clearly lost interest. The jury foreman had already made it clear that they (the jury) had no intention of sitting into a fifth week. Indeed they intended to be finished and on their ways home by Friday afternoon.
So it was galling – to say the least – to watch the brief extracts printed out on the judge’s instructions being folded or screwed up by members of the jury and stuffed into their bags and holdalls, all unread. They had heard and seen enough, and weren’t now interested in my defence. After all, I was a well-paid Member of (the European) Parliament. I was a ‘toff’’ – and everyone knows all such people are on the fiddle.
In other words, whilst it could be held that my defence included solid evidence of my researches into EU corruption, no detail was on the public record, no specific evidence had been spelt out in open court, and none of the reporters in the press gallery were any the wiser.
c) As an experienced writer and director of what became known as business television (programmes made to aid communication between companies and their actual and potential client base) I wrote and produced several TV programmes on the UK’s relationship with the EU. I had also written several earlier books and pamphlets on the subject. One such programme Better Off Out was being made as I was elected to the European Parliament. It was an indictment of the damage being done to the UK by the many thousands of regulations which were finding their way into the British statute book as secondary legislation (known as statutory orders), which require little or no parliamentary debate or vote). Not only did I use some of my allowances after the election to finish the production, but I also used them throughout my term as an MEP to make many thousands of copies for distribution at the many scores of meetings I held across the huge south-east England constituency.
When we were planning my defence I told my legal team I wanted the jury to see that video as part of my defence. Whether they spoke to the judge or not, the answer was categoric - ‘quite impossible and impracticable’. The request was rejected. Again, it is now obvious that this was a political decision.
Propensity to Defraud
In 2007, half way through my time as an elected MEP and when my reputation as a trouble-maker and nosy-parker was well established, the European Commission made an attempt to have me removed. The whole story is told in my memoirs A Mote in Brussels’ Eye. Essentially they seized on the fact that I had been receiving benefits during the short time in the early 1990s when I was out of work and we had to sell our home. Mine was one of over 100,000 businesses destroyed as a result of the ERM crash. It took me a while to recover, during which time I did apply for out-of-work benefit – to my huge embarrassment and only until I found a script-writing project abroad and ceased receiving benefits.
Now, more than ten years later, I was an MEP. But that previous personal catastrophe could serve as a pretext for accusations of benefit fraud. The EU went to town. They hired a lawyer, who was a QC and Head of Chambers no less, to lead the prosecution and dredged up a mis-mash of witnesses in support.
Unsurprisingly I was found guilty and sentenced to nine months (in an open jail).
But the EU had lost! An MEP could lose his seat only if he was sentenced to a year or more. So, a few months later I was back in Brussels making just as much trouble as before – if not more.
But the conviction stood, and the law had been changed in 2004 to allow people accused of a crime to have their previous convictions raised as part of the evidence against them in their current trial. (Quite where that leaves the proposition that you are innocent until proven guilty I cannot say) The judge ruled that the previous conviction showed a ‘propensity’ to criminality and the jury should be made aware. The fact that I had never previously been involved in the law in all my seven decades apparently counted for nothing.
Consequently, the jury heard countless references to this stain on my character throughout the four-week trial. It was hammered home relentlessly, and must have had a profound effect on the jury. Once they had that information, a fair trial was impossible. It must have coloured their view of everything they heard, and almost certainly played a part in their reaching their verdicts in barely 90 minutes on the last day.
Quite how the EU and the local authority made contact with each other I don’t know, but they did. Perhaps the EU was already casting around for a vehicle to get me thrown out of the Parliament, and simply asked the UK government to make enquiries on their behalf.
Much later - when it was far too late – I learned what my defence team should have raised at the time.
By allowing the propensity argument the judge had chosen to ignore a legal ruling which had been applied in such cases for years:
In R v Hanson (2005) 2 C Appeal R (S) 21: “…the fewer the number of convictions the weaker is likely to be the evidence for propensity. A single previous conviction for an offence of the same description or category often does not show propensity…old convictions with no special features shared with the offence charged are likely to seriously affect the fairness of the proceedings adversely.”
Whether my defence team quoted any of the above ruling in my defence before the trial judge decided to allow my previous conviction to be revealed to the jury is unknown. But later conversations with them suggested not. Was this a further abuse of process?
A Curious Jury
Juries for trials at Southwark Crown Court are drawn from the suburbs of London – mainly but not entirely from the south-east quarter. All solid Labour seats. Advantage prosecution. And there were others.
The 30 or so individuals assembled for the selection process shared several characteristics. They had obviously been carefully but ‘randomly’ pre-selected. The majority – if not all – appeared to be C2DE members of the public (a demographic profiling classification of “working class and below” individuals). None of the men wore a suit, or a collar and tie. Of the 12 finally selected at least three – in my hearing – proved that their understanding of the English language was seriously limited. British nationals – in any meaningful sense – they were not. Given that the trial was scheduled to last four weeks it was obvious many of the jury would be dependent on benefits since none raised an issue with work commitments or obligations, let alone about running their own enterprises. My peers they were not.
Long before the end of the trial it was patently clear that most of the jury had lost interest. Given their obvious backgrounds they had been bored out of their minds by the prosecution’s endless repetition of detailed financial particulars relating to.my alleged mis-use of public funds. A couple of jurors regularly asked questions of the judge which inevitably demonstrated their total lack of understanding – and their complete inability to follow even relatively simple financial data. One of them – almost certainly an ill-educated middle-aged housewife – became foreman of the jury, no doubt precisely because she was always asking questions of the judge. By the middle of the last week that same individual told the judge in no uncertain terms that the trial had to be finished by the end of the week because “they” had other obligations the following week. A verdict had to be reached by the end of the Friday afternoon, come what may.
On the Friday morning, as part of his summing up, the judge gave the jury a document entitled “A Route to Verdict” which recommended the procedure the jury should follow to reach a decision. Effectively, it told the jury to ignore my motivation. It should consider only my actions. This ‘guidance’ removed the whistle-blower element of my defence entirely. The ‘greater good’, the electoral platform on which I was elected, the public interest, the best interests of my constituents – all were excluded by the Route to Verdict. Justification was not a defence, it seemed, nor my use of allowances to finance it. That left “personal gain” as the only verdict. (I was not given a copy of Route to Verdict at the time, which my lawyers did nothing to rectify. It was only long after the trial that I finally obtained a copy, the contents of which made the reason for my exclusion from its distribution at the time crystal clear.)
When he finished his summing up late on the Friday morning the judge told the jury to go and have lunch and then start considering their verdicts. Just over 100 minutes later (one hour and 42 minutes to be exact) they returned with guilty verdicts on every count. Allow for collecting lunch, and they had taken barely 90 minutes or so to review the evidence and make their decision. Getting home for the rest of the afternoon and getting ready for the weekend were far more important to the jury…and to hell with the consequences. They had had enough.
The verdicts have not changed the facts
The Hayes Dimension
Among the charges I faced in 2014 was the accusation that I paid some £200,000 from my allowances to my solicitor Christopher Hayes, and that this was somehow for personal gain. The facts setting out my entirely professional relationship with Edward Hayes and Partners were made available to the jury via my own evidence and that of the head of the European Parliament’s staff, a Mr Verhargen. For reasons not clear to me at the time Mr Hayes – who had not been arrested, nor been charged and the charges then dropped – was not called as a witness for the defence. As a result, the jury (had they been paying attention) would have had only the vaguest idea of the working relationship between Mr Hayes and myself.
My first contact with Mr Hayes was when I was confronted with the EU’s first attempt to remove me from the European Parliament. His firm was listed as one of the few firms in the area who handled criminal matters. Prior to that I had never heard of Mr Hayes. A preliminary meeting satisfied me that he could handle my defence. It was not a success largely because the QC he appointed to lead my defence in court was much more interested in going on holiday. He even threatened to leave the case half way through. Nevertheless, I felt Mr Hayes was a thorough and totally trustworthy man.
Meanwhile the CPS had appointed a QC who was also Head of Chambers to lead the prosecution case – overkill which demonstrates the determination of the CPS to meet the wishes of the EU. A conviction followed by a one-year custodial sentence would get me thrown out of the European Parliament.
The case was lost but the EU failed in its objective.
Later, when the European Parliament told me that I was to become a test case in Britain to establish whether a British MEP had immunity from prosecution I asked Mr Hayes to assist me. I had no wish whatsoever to claim such immunity but the EP’s bureaucrats demanded that I defend the accusation to establish (for them) the law on the question. Mr Vanhargen confirmed as much in his evidence in 2015. The EP also readily agreed that I use my allowances to fund my ‘defence’ which was ultimately authorised by Mr Vanhargen himself.
My legal team was briefed, made several visits to Brussels to meet lawyers for the prosecution, and conducted a full defence against the claim that I was immune from prosecution - and also made it crystal clear that I was making no such claim, and never had. In due course the law was clarified and, as a result, no future British MEP would be immune from prosecution.
The cost of all this legal nit-picking – the origins of which were never made clear to me – were substantial. It also generated consequences. As a result of the trial a number of my political opponents attempted to exploit the case for their own personal benefit over the months following, by mounting civil cases against me. They, too, generated legal costs which were met from my allowances since they were incurred solely because of the EU’s test case.
It was clear after the completion of evidence at my prosecution in 2015 that the jury did not have a clear picture of my relationship with Mr Hayes. It was entirely professional, confined to my being his client and he my solicitor - and nothing else. Mr Hayes’ absence as a witness for the defence was decisively against my best interests. So was the absence as witnesses of all the legal team who assisted my defence in the EU’s test case against the notion of British MEPs having immunity from prosecution.
Quiet ‘arrangements’ behind the scenes between the prosecution and the defence lawyers had ensured that I had no effective defence to those specific Hayes-related charges (specifically the mis-use of my allowances). That part of my trial appeared – at the time - to be a careful agreed ‘stitch-up’ between the legal teams, the sole purpose being the protection of one of their own.
But it became apparent some time later that Mr Hayes had not appeared for the defence because by then he was himself under threat from the Law Society for his own conduct while he was advising and assisting me in Brussels. But I had not been told.
Transcripts between the judge and my legal team later showed that my own lawyers decided not to call Mr Hayes, despite the judge making it perfectly clear that they were free to do so – which rather suggests the judge thought it the right thing to do in my interests. With hindsight it is clear the absence of Mr Hayes from the witness box was catastrophic. He would have made clear that the substantial sums I was obliged to pay him were paid with good reason and justification. As it was, the jury heard nothing of the test case over immunity and the consequential fall-out from opportunists trying to exploit the outcome for their personal and political benefit.
My term as an MEP came to an end in 2009. A couple of years later, out of the blue and to my great surprise, I heard from Edward Hayes and Partners again. I was told that the firm was being investigated for receiving legal fees from Brussels during my term of office to which they were not entitled. The EU was apparently demanding many thousands of pounds back and/or threatening my lawyers with misappropriation, or some such.
After my term of office was over they had decided that – with hindsight or mischief-making – I should have met from my own personal resources all the costs of defending the immunity test case against me. I have already made it clear that I did not wish to defend the case as a matter of principle. It had been brought against me solely because it was a test case in law.
Shortly after Edward Hayes and Partners alerted me to what was happening to them I started receiving in euros a series of demands from the European Parliament for refunds of those same costs incurred in my test case – presumable on the grounds that if they could not be recovered from my lawyers they best be recovered from me instead.
Those same sums, now in sterling, made up the total included in charges 6 to 9 in the original indictment, charges 6 and 7 in the second version and charges 5 and 6 in the charges on which I was never arraigned and which were never put to the jury – at least not in my hearing. Yet they became the platform on which all the guilty verdicts were returned – despite the jury not knowing they even existed.
My Solicitor is Struck Off
Almost eight years after I left the European Parliament my solicitor, Christopher Hayes, who had advised me throughout my time in Brussels, was struck off by the Law Society. He was also told to pay some £90,000 in costs. He was found guilty of receiving funds from the European Parliament in payment for work commissioned by me and – at the time – specifically recommended and authorised by senior EU bureaucrats.
Christopher Hayes was an experienced solicitor of many years standing. He was well used to handling both criminal and family matters, and came highly recommended by another solicitor whom I knew well but who did not handle criminal cases. To this day I have no reason to doubt either his integrity or his ability. But what happened to him as a result of his work with and for me during my time in the European Parliament was both a tragedy and an outrage.
In my case, the British judicial system chose knowingly to ignore the EU’s own judicial system and law. The EU initiated proceedings against me entirely for reasons already explored.
But with Christopher Hayes the British judicial system chose steadfastly to ignore EU law and judicial procedures as if they did not exist.
Those responsible for the tribunal that struck off Christopher Hayes as a solicitor must have positively chosen to ignore the fact that he (like me) was acting under regulations determined by the EU – and that those regulations and procedures took precedence over the UK’s judicial system.
Yet the full report of his tribunal hearing and conclusions makes not one concession to the EU’s very existence, let alone its procedures, attitudes and activities, to say nothing of its legal superiority over UK law.
In my case, none of my legal team was prepared to research the EU’s impact on the issues involved. Instead they allowed the EU to dictate the agenda.
But the tribunal hearing the Hayes case chose (repeat chose) not to investigate the attitudes, criteria and cultural of the EU and its impact on English law. Which is why the 36-page tribunal report contains – in addition to several careless errors of fact and incorrect dates – the narrowest interpretation of English law and practises. The full story is ignored. To have taken full account of the Brussels dimension would have destroyed the case against Mr Hayes and that could not be allowed to happen.
The tribunal took the same attitude towards me. At no time was I asked to attend as a witness. At no time was I interviewed. The solicitors dealing with my defence preparations between 2013 and my trial in 2015 said not a word about Christopher Hayes’ career being threatened by the Law Society.
Despite a total absence of any contact between us, the tribunal report felt free to criticise me as ‘manipulative’, ‘intimidating’, ‘unusually difficult’, ‘unpleasant’, ‘strong-minded’, and ‘a very convincing individual’. Whether, or how, the tribunal attempted to justify such epithets to themselves remains an open question. No evidence was offered in their report.
The unavoidable and bitter irony in this sorry tale is the fact that the EU has been shown to be one of the most fundamentally corrupt organisations of modern times, and beyond redemption. Worse, no member state has any control over the EU’s finances.
So why did the UK’s Law Society tribunal not ask the EU to explain its role in my affairs and that of Mr Hayes when dealing with EU allowances and expenses? Why were EU officials not asked to clarify our business relationship? They must have known. But the tribunal chose to ignore them.
Finally, given all the circumstances, the notion that Christopher Hayes was regarded by the EU as one of my whistle-blowers cannot be ignored. It would also help explain the reluctance of the EU to get involved in the tribunal – assuming that they knew about it. If he was a whistle-blower (he was not), the EU would have seen him rot.
Advice to MEPs not Seeking Re-election
At the end of my time (late 2009) I attended meetings with the bureaucrats who managed the affairs of the European Parliament. Well over 100 MEPs attended each time. In answer to a specific question we were told there was no need to keep any personal records for more than a year after the end of our term of office. We could safely destroy them. I did so, not least to clear my home of a small mountain of paperwork I no longer needed.
So when, some four years later, I was investigated by Hampshire police on the instructions of the EU (via the UK government) I had little solid evidence of what I had done during my term of office, and how my resources had been deployed. At best it was already in my books and the rest was in my head.
Obviously I had long destroyed anything which might incriminate any of my whistle-blowers at the time. But now almost everything else was destroyed too.
This loss of documents proved to be a huge handicap to my defence. At least three of the original charges I faced could have been completed refuted had the documentary proof still existed. This handicap was completely ignored by the judge. The absence of proof was no proof at all as to how my allowances and expenses had been used.