Police chief’s plea helps save witness from prison
a tERRIFIEd witness whose evidence was crucial in convicting two gangland killers has been spared a jail sentence after a senior policeman made a plea on his behalf to appeal judges.
John corkish, 46, was held in contempt of court for initially failing to speak up against two notorious Glasgow underworld figures, James Mcdonald and Raymond anderson.
He was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment but an assistant chief constable of Strathclyde Police warned the court of criminal appeal that other witnesses might refuse to come forward if they thought they could end up in jail.
“Sentence could affect witnesses in future cases”
David Burns, QC
the judges quashed corkish’s sentence, saying it was “inappropriate and excessive”.
Mcdonald, 36, and anderson, 48, were sentenced to life and ordered to serve at least 35 years – the longest terms imposed in Scotland – for the shooting of Michael lyons, 21, at a garage in the lambhill area of Glasgow in december 2006.
It was suspected the murder was part of a war between the daniel and lyons crime families.
corkish gave evidence at a first trial of Mcdonald and anderson, which had to be abandoned because of jury problems. He was warned several times by the judge, lord Hardie.
at a second trial, he admitted lying on oath at the first trial. lord Hardie ruled he was in contempt of court and jailed him for a year. He served two weeks, in solitary confinement for his own protection, before being freed pending an appeal.
In yesterday’s judgment, lord osborne said corkish had been suffering from a number of medical conditions and had taken medication that could have played a part in his inability to answer questions adequately.
also, he and his family had been under threat, and offered protection “at the highest level.” He was relocated, amid fears Mcdonald and anderson would attempt to “silence” him.
lord osborne said corkish’s evidence had been vital in the case against the two men.
campbell corrigan, 37, Strathclyde assistant chief constable, gave an affidavit to the court.
david Burns, Qc, for corkish, said it warned “if the sentence against corkish were to be implemented, that could have a deleterious effect on future cases and the ability of police officers to reassure potential witnesses.”
lord osborne said: “Perhaps the most powerful consideration that has influenced our decision is the material now available from an assistant chief constable.
“Plainly, it is of the first importance that persons who may be in close proximity to the commission of serious crime might be deterred from furnishing information and evidence to the police if difficulties which they may encounter in doing so may result in the kind of disposal selected in this case.
“that is a matter of great significance in a case such as the present one, in which charges of the most grave and sinister kind were brought to trial.
“While we can readily understand [the trial judge’s] indignation at the commission of perjury in the first trial, he appears to us to have given insufficient weight to the wider implications of the disposal he selected.”
the judges said corkish would be admonished.