Press Release Robert Clark & Christopher Drury 19th October 2011
Robert Clark & Christopher Drury
19th October 2011
Robert Clark and Christopher Drury, formerly officers of the Metropolitan Police, were finally vindicated today of allegations of corruption when the Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence against them at the Old Bailey in relation to two alleged incidents of corruption in 1995.
They were tried in 1999-2000 in a notorious Old Bailey case of many offences of corruption based on the word of two self-confessed dealers in Class A and Class B drugs, former Detective Constable Neil Putnam and Evelyn Fleckney, who had been a police informant.
Fleckney was removed from Holloway Prison in April 1998, having been sentenced to 15 years for drug trafficking four weeks before, by officers of New Scotland Yard and detained in a police station for 7 months. In that time she alternatively confessed to crimes and implicated others, all for what the prosecution conceded in court yesterday, 18 October 2011, was the purpose of gaining a reduction in her sentence.
In that eight months, she was visited once by a prison governor, was subject to constant medication for depression, and was removed at one stage to hospital having taken an overdose of drugs. She was also regularly taken from the station for visits to theme parks, swimming-pools and seaside resorts and allowed to talk regularly by telephone to her criminal associates. One on occasion she was taken to the grave of a drug trafficker who died in a car accident.
Neil Putnam was kept for 3 months in similar conditions. His diary showed that he was regularly taken from custody, once for a drink in a pub, for visits to the seaside, the shops, and on one occasion was taken by police officers, who have never been formally disciplined, to test drive a sports car. He was remanded in custody for drugs offences to which he had pleaded guilty on 13 July 1998, but the court which remanded him to custody did not know that he was being removed to a police station for interrogation.
The claimed justification for this custody was a system by which prison governors can release prisoners for very short periods to the police to give evidence in court, to identify burgled premises and for other very short-term reasons.
Deliberately, Detective Chief Superintendent John Yates, later Assistant Commissioner, who was in charge of the investigation, devised a system of informal conversations, partially recorded “debriefs”, tape recorded interviews under caution with these witnesses, followed by formal witness statements at the end of the investigation. In these conditions, the two persons incriminated various police officers. The opportunity for unfair and unrecorded threats, inducements, promises and pressure was obvious.
Putnam and Fleckney gave evidence at the 1999 trial of Mr Clark and Mr Drury, in the expectation that they would receive lighter sentences, and in Fleckney’s case a reduction in her existing sentence. Two other officers were acquitted. Robert Clark and Christopher Drury were acquitted of most of the allegations against them, but convicted of two pairs of offences.
Putnam received 3 years 11 months for 20 offences,, including dealing in Class A drugs, and was released from prison in April 2000. Fleckney received five years’ imprisonment concurrent to the 15 year term for over 20 offences, also including dealing in Class A drugs, which was later reduced on appeal to 8 years in total. Mr Clark received a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, Mr Drury 8 for their two offences relating to Class B drugs. They have served their sentences.
Mr Clark and Mr Drury appealed unsuccessfully to the Court of Appeal against conviction, and sought in vain to appeal to the House of Lords and European Court of Human Rights.
Over the years, it became clear that a very significant quantity of evidence relevant to the credibility of Fleckney and Putnam had not been disclosed to Mr Clark and Mr Drury at trial, and after an investigation lasting nearly 7 years the Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the case back to the Court of Appeal. In December 2010, the Court of Appeal allowed their appeals against conviction because important evidence had not been disclosed at the trial. The Court ordered a retrial of the two groups of offences of corruption.
Mr Justice Bean has heard an application over the last two weeks at the Old Bailey to have the case stopped because it would be unfair to retry them. Various lawyers and police officers have been called by the CPS to say that the critical material was not disclosed by mistake and oversight, and have denied defence suggestions in cross-examination that it was deliberate. The most important material which was not disclosed in 1999 was a large bundle of documents suggesting that Fleckney had conspired with another woman in prison, just before her removal to Mr Yates’ team, to implicate falsely Mr Clark and another officer in the supply of heroin, so that both could get substantial reductions in sentence.
Both Putnam and Fleckney were called to give evidence in the last few days. Each claimed to have been pressurised unfairly by Detective Chief Superintendent Yates and his junior officers while they were detained as “resident informants” in 1998. Putnam alleged that Yates told him that unless he implicated a named police officer in a certain crime, he would be dropped from the “resident informant” system into the general prison population, not something any police officer would choose. Fleckney claimed she was treated throughout her 8 months like a caged animal, was in deep distress, was taken on one occasion to hospital having taken an overdose of drugs, and that when she first refused to give evidence in 1999 against Mr Clark and Mr Drury, Mr Yates and another senior officer, Inspector Murrill, shouted at her and threatened that she would be sent to Durham prison, notoriously the harshest woman’s prison in England, far from her family.
Under this pressure, not disclosed at the 1999 trial, she then stuck to the statements she said this week had been obtained by duress
The prosecution offered no evidence today after Evelyn Fleckney refused yesterday to confirm the evidence she had given under these threats and inducements in 1999. Putnam claimed in court last week that he had had other highly controversial conversations in unrecorded “debrief” sessions in 1999 with police officers which had not been recorded. The details of these conversations cannot now be disclosed for legal reasons. The police and prosecution accused him in 2011 of inventing this, but could not suggest a motive.
Thus, the prosecution was reduced to attacking its 2 star witnesses of 1999 in court this week.
This fiasco demonstrates yet again the dangers of the “supergrass” system. Senior officers have admitted at the hearing this week that they were making up the rules relevant to Putnam and Fleckney’s detention in 1998 as they went along. The decision to offer no evidence has come just before John Yates, commended at the original trial by Mr Justice Blofeld for his investigation, was due to give evidence on Friday to explain this debacle.
Over the years conviction after conviction obtained by dubious accomplice evidence has been overturned. The decision today will probably affect the convictions of other police officers in the Flying Squad at Rigg Approach and other regional crime squads obtained in the late 1990’s.
Mr Clark and Mr Drury, who both live now modestly in the North of England working as bus drivers, have had their careers ruined by these allegations. They will now be looking for appropriate compensation and damages. Above all, they call for a thorough enquiry into how the prosecution has been permitted to rely on such discredited and tainted evidence in their own and so many other trials.
Karen Todner -Kaim Todner (0207-353-6660) Solicitors for Christopher Drury.
Mark Lake - Lake Jackson 0203-373-6321 Solicitors for Robert Clark
19 October 2011
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