Drugs case stopped as abuse of process following challenge by Simon Gurney to Prosecution disclosure approach

Simon Gurney was instructed by Jared McNally of Clifford Johnston & Co. Solicitors to represent SH, who was accused of being a member of an Organised Crime Group, operating across the North of England, distributing multi-kilo consignments of Class A drugs.

The Prosecution alleged that SH had participated in a substantial drugs conspiracy, which had been investigated by the Police under the title ‘Operation Heart’. The case had resulted in the convictions of numerous individuals proved to have been involved in the conspiracy.

SH was due to be tried in November 2021, but the case had to be postponed because of concerns raised by Simon and Jared about the approach of the Prosecution, both as to the service of evidence and the disclosure of unused material that might assist the Defence case.

The Recorder of Manchester warned the Prosecution about the seriousness of its failings, but afforded it a further opportunity to remedy the issues before the new trial date in July 2022.

The Prosecution failed to heed the warnings, maintaining that its approach to disclosure was appropriate and complied with its obligations. By the end of January, nothing had been done to address the issues and the Prosecution maintained it had disclosed all that was required.

Simon and Jared considered the Prosecution’s approach to be wholly misguided. It was deficient in a number of respects. The Prosecution refused to disclose material sought by the Defence and failed to provide any proper explanation of its approach to disclosure, particularly in the interrogation of digital media.

The Prosecution’s lamentable approach posed a serious threat to the fairness of the proceedings.

Simon prepared a skeleton argument, arguing that the Defendant could not fairly be tried and, in any event, given the Prosecution’s approach, to allow the case to continue would be affront to justice and, therefore, the case should be stayed as an abuse of process.

Following legal argument in March and April 2022, the Recorder of Manchester concluded that the approach of the Police and Prosecution, which showed a lack of understanding of the disclosure regime, was irremediable. He had no confidence that the Police or Prosecution had the will to put right the deficiencies identified by the Defence.

Accordingly he stayed the indictment, bringing to an end the proceedings against SH.

Simon is a specialist in defending allegations of serious criminal offending. If you are interested in instructing him, please contact his Clerks in Chambers.