Po­lice chief’s plea helps save wit­ness from prison

The Scotsman - - Features - jOhn rOBert­SOn law cor­re­Spon­dent

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.

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