Police chief ’s lunch causes trial to collapse
Judge abandons trial after top officer’s Subway blunder
THE trial of two Gloucester men charged with affray collapsed after two police officers who were prosecution witnesses were seen having lunch together.
Robert Freeman and Andrew Mayo had gone on trial at Gloucester Crown Court this week in relation to a brawl at a kebab shop in the city.
But Judge Ian Lawrie QC called a halt to proceedings after Chief Inspector Carl Bourne and PC Mary Jeffries-Jones were seen eating together at a Subway outlet near the court.
PC Jeffries-Jones, whose ‘body worn’ camera footage of the incident was played to the jury multiple times during the trial, finished giving her evidence in the morning of the trial’s second day.
Ch Insp Bourne then followed her into the witness box to start to give his account of the incident, but he had not finished by the time the court broke for lunch.
After the break, Freeman’s defence lawyer, Ellen McAnaw, said she had seen the pair sitting together having lunch on Southgate Street.
Judge Lawrie said: “I am deeply unhappy the officers have spoken in this way.”
Giving his ruling that the jury would have to be discharged, he said: “I am unhappy that a senior police officer has seen fit whilst in middle of giving evidence to have lunch with an officer who had already given evidence.
“In the light of the issues raised by the defence, that does cause me concern.
“This case and what has been asserted is all about perception. I am not content for the trial to continue.
“I am sadly going to stop this trial in those circumstances. I blame myself in part. I foolishly took the view that I did not need to give the warning to a chief inspector of 20 years’ experience plus.”
Freeman, 37, of Bourton Road, Tuffley, and Mayo, 33, of Linden Road, Gloucester, had denied a charge of taking part in an affray on July 17, 2016 outside Zam Zams fast food restaurant in Eastgate Street at around 3.45am.
Philip Warren, prosecuting, said in the light of the judge’s ruling he would not seek a retrial if the two men would plead guilty to the less serious charge of causing fear or provocation of violence through threatening words and behaviour.
Both men then pleaded guilty to that lesser offence.
Two other men – Calvin Campbell, 47, of Overton Road, Cheltenham, and Leighton Beach, 22, of Hopewell Street, Gloucester – have already pleaded guilty to affray.
The judge adjourned the case for sentence with all four defendants present on a date to be fixed.
He told Mayo and Freeman: “I can deal with this by a variety of methods short of custody.”
When the aborted trial started, the jury were shown CCTV and police bodycam film of a violent disturbance.
Mr Warren said it was unclear what triggered the affray but it appeared to be an incident with Beach and a woman, and possibly a member of staff at the takeaway, when ‘chips were thrown’.
“From there it mushroomed,” he said. The film showed at one point at least ten men and women involved in the disturbance that eventually settled down after 15 minutes.
People were seen rushing in and out of the takeaway, confronting staff and each other, with the disturbance rolling all the way over to the GL1 leisure centre on the other side of the road, flaring up intermittently.
The prosecutor said Mayo “pumps his fist and appears angry and aggressive,” during the incident.
He also said Mayo spat at the police officers who attended several times.
The court heard that police officers had deployed PAVA spray, a form of pepper spray, and Steven Young, representing Mayo, argued that his client had not received proper ‘aftercare’ as per guidelines for the use of the spray.
A spokesman for Gloucestershire Constabulary said: “Our Criminal Justice Department has been informed about this incident and has liaised with the Crown Prosecution Service about the issue.
“We will now be reviewing what happened and taking all necessary actions to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”