Monthly Archives: July 2012
Radical preacher Abu Qatada, who is being held in a high-security prison in Worcestershire, has lost his latest bid for freedom.
Two judges at the High Court in London rejected his challenge against his continuing detention by Home Secretary Theresa May.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) ruled two months ago that the detention of Qatada, who is fighting deportation to Jordan, was lawful.
Leaving him free during heightened security for the 2012 Olympics would be “exceptionally problematic”, a judge said.
Lord Justice Hughes, sitting with Mr Justice Silber, said the court was “quite satisfied” that Qatada’s judicial review application should be dismissed.
After the decision was announced, lawyers for Qatada indicated they would consider taking the case to the Court of Appeal once they have seen the court’s reasons for its ruling.
A Home Office spokeswoman said the intention is to remove Qatada, referred to in court as Omar Mahmoud Othman, “as quickly as possible”.
During the High Court hearing, his lawyers said the Islamic cleric had been detained for seven years, “the longest period of administrative detention, so far as we know, in modern English history.”
“Our submission is that the detention has already gone on for so long as to be disproportionate and unlawful.”
Government counsel Robin Tam QC said Qatada was described in one court judgment as “a truly dangerous individual” who was at the centre in the UK of terrorist activities associated with al Qaida.
A dentist who conned the NHS out of £1.4 million – much of which she spent on exotic holidays and designer shoes – has been warned she faces a “substantial” jail term after a jury found her guilty of conspiracy to defraud.
Dr Joyce Trail was convicted at Birmingham Crown Court after a five-week trial.
Jurors heard she made thousands of false claims for treating patients, including dozens for people who were actually dead.
Judge Peter Carr told her: “In your case there is no other option than a substantial sentence of imprisonment, the only thing I need to decide is its length.
“You abused your position as a professional and you abused your position as a dentist. You have effectively stolen a large amount of money that was not available to an already overstretched health service.
Prosecutors said Trail, 50, of Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, spent money she gained from the scam on “globe-trotting” and Jimmy Choo shoes.
Trail’s daughter. Nyri Sterling, 33, was also convicted of conspiracy to defraud.
The dentist’s sister, Fiona Trail, 46, was acquitted of the charge.
Opening the case, prosecutor Miranda Moore QC said the fraud at Trail’s practice in Handsworth, Birmingham, involved more than 7,000 claims backed up by false paperwork.
Miss Moore told the court: “Dr Trail claimed and was paid a great deal for treatment she had not performed – not just a few claims, not just a few clerical errors, but something in the order of £1.4 million of false claims.”
The prosecutor said Trail’s daughter worked in the administration side of the practice and assisted her in running the fraud. The charges relate to the period of April 2006 to March 2009.
False lab dockets and invoices relating to dentures allegedly being supplied to residents in care homes are said to have been used to perpetrate the fraud.
Miss Moore said 100 claims were made for treating people who were dead, adding: “Dr Trail treated people who lived in nursing homes and residential care a great deal of the time.
“She double- and triple-claimed for people that she had actually treated and then she used patient details which had been quite unwittingly supplied to her by nursing homes to claim for people that she had never even met.
“It meant that the practice received in the order of £1.4 million that it should not have done.
“But, moreover, Dr Trail then siphoned off money which enabled her to live a lavish lifestyle. She was globe-trotting, spending time at very exotic locations.
“Her American Express bill was vast compared to what she was legitimately making from the business, but of course when it’s other people’s money it’s very easy to spend it.”
Trail, of Park Drive, Little Aston, was remanded in custody to be sentenced on September 14.
Sterling, of Ashwood Close, Oldbury, West Midlands, was released on bail until sentencing on the same date.
The judge told her: “You too are in a serious position. It is highly likely that you too will go to prison.”
Dr Trail and her sister, of Belle Vale, Halesowen, West Midlands, were both cleared of conspiring to pervert the course of justice in April 2009 as NHS investigators gathered evidence
Victoria Jones, senior Crown prosecutor from the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) complex casework unit, said: “Dr Joyce Trail’s victims in this case were not only the vulnerable victims who she targeted for her own greed, but it was also the ordinary taxpayer too.
“In total over £1 million of taxpayers’ money was fraudulently claimed by Dr Trail which she used to fund an extravagant lifestyle.
“The work that Dr Trail claimed to have done was for those most vulnerable people in society, namely the elderly and those with dementia. She would claim to have visited the nursing homes and treated the residents when in fact no treatment had been delivered by her. She was assisted in this fraudulent activity by her daughter.
“In over 100 cases the patient she claimed to have treated was deceased at the time of treatment.
“Due to the sheer number of fraudulent claims which were committed, this was one of the most complex cases that West Midlands CPS has ever had to prosecute as each fraudulent claim was made up of several forms, patient record cards and other paperwork such as laboratory documents. There were over 85,000 documents in total served both in electronic and paper format.
“Throughout this trial Dr Trail continued to deny matters and changed her version of events a number of times which resulted in additional work being carried out during the trial following evidence introduced by her.
“I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the prosecution team who worked closely together from very early in the proceedings with the NHS Protect Team, who were investigating this matter, and all of the witnesses who assisted with the case in bringing these defendants to justice.”
The Parole Board, which assesses the dangerousness of criminals eligible for release, has refused to comment on whether the mother of north London child Baby P could soon be freed.
Tracey Connelly was jailed indefinitely with a minimum of five years in May 2009 for causing or allowing the death of her 17-month-old son Peter at his home in Tottenham.
The toddler died on August 3 2007 with more than 50 injuries, despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over eight months.
Connelly admitted the offence soon after being charged and served several hundred days on remand and will therefore possibly be eligible for parole in the coming weeks from Foston Hall Prison in Derby, where she is believed to be.
Connelly was jailed along with boyfriend Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen, who were convicted at trial of the same offence.
Barker was jailed for life with a minimum of 10 years for raping a two-year-old girl and given a 12-year term to run concurrently for his “major role” in Peter’s death.
Owen was jailed indefinitely with a minimum three-year term but later won an appeal to lower it to a fixed six-year term. He was freed last August.
A Parole Board spokesman said: “It is the policy of the board not to comment on or confirm its decisions or reasons in individual cases such as this.
“Once an IPP (indeterminate for public protection) sentence prisoner’s minimum tariff has been served, the court regards them as having served the necessary period of imprisonment to reflect the gravity of the offence and the need for punishment.”
“The only legal question which has to be answered to determine the justification for detention thereafter is whether or not the prisoner is a risk to the public.”
The wife of infamous Belgian paedophile Marc Dutroux, who let two of his young victims starve to death, has been released from prison 22 years early to the outrage of their families.
Michelle Martin, 52, was jailed for 30 years in 2004 for not freeing girls Dutroux held captive behind a secret door in their basement in Marcinelle, 40 miles south of Brussels.
Dutroux, 55, is serving a life term for kidnapping, torturing and abusing six girls in 1995 and 1996, four of whom he murdered.
During those years, Dutroux also spent four months in jail for theft, leaving it to his wife to feed Julie Lejeune and Melissa Russo, two eight-year-old girls imprisoned in the basement. Martin, herself a mother of three, let the girls starve to death.
Martin and Dutroux have been behind bars since they were arrested August 12, 1996. Under Belgian law, early release is possible after one-third of a sentence is served, including credit for time spent in pre-trial detention. And in Martin’s case, a Belgian convent has said it would take her in as part of the conditions of her release.
The parents of the two murdered girls expressed outrage at the court’s decision, saying Martinwas as bad as her husband.
And parents of the couple’s other victims said they were shocked by the decision to release Martin early and accused the court of ignoring their feelings.
The ruling “came out of the blue,” said Paul Marchal, whose 17-year-old daughter An, was drugged and killed in Dutroux’s dungeon.
“I believed this would not happen,” Mr Marchal said. “If Martin gets an early release, then who will they keep in prison?”
Jean Lambrecks, whose 19-year-old daughter, Eefje, also was killed by Dutroux, said he “was sure she would remain in prison, for she is as bad as Dutroux.”
“She starved children to death,” he said. “She knew they were in the cellar.”
A court in the city of Mons granted Martin’s early release request – her fifth in eight years – after her lawyers found a place for her at the convent and convinced the court she would not become a repeat offender. She will probably not be released for another two weeks, leaving the prosecution time to appeal the ruling.
Martin, who has divorced Dutroux, is no longer “the woman who was incarcerated in 1996,” said her lawyer, Thierry Moreau. “She says her guilt will follow her to the grave.”
Dutroux was a repeat offender whose first abuse conviction dated to 1986. For that initial conviction, he was sentenced to almost 14 years in prison, but served only three.
The girls held captive later in his basement ranged from eight to 19 years old. The case revealed shocking lapses in law enforcement, notably two visits in 1995 by suspicious police who saw nothing wrong in the basement and ignored a letter from Dutroux’s mother, who was worried her son was abusing young girls.
Under the terms of her release, Martin will have to remain at the convent and be assigned a daily task. A plan to release her last year to a convent in France failed when the convent changed its mind following publicity.
A woman who snatched a three-week-old baby from a hospital more than two decades ago and raised the child as her own was jailed for 12 years.
Ann Pettway, 50, pleaded guilty to kidnapping in February and offered details of the 1987 kidnapping. She said she took a train from her Connecticut home to Harlem Hospital, where she scooped up Carlina White, who had been brought to accident and emergency with a high fever.
The judge handed down the sentence in US district court in Manhattan.
Prosecutors said it appeared that Pettway, of Raleigh, North Carolina, kidnapped the ailing infant because she wanted a baby “and constructed a web of lies that denied the child the truth about her family for 23 years”.
They said Pettway “brazenly took the daughter from a hospital crib and, when no one stopped her, brought the daughter home with her to Connecticut. If the offence had ended there, in 1987, a lengthy sentence of imprisonment would have been warranted for kidnapping alone. But the offence did not end there. Instead it continued for 23 years”.
The US government challenged her lawyers’ contention that she provided a “stable, loving and happy home”, saying that Pettway was convicted of five crimes while Carlina was in her custody and told the probation department that she used cocaine from 1983 until 2005 and smoked marijuana every day until she was in her early 30s.
It also said Carlina’s biological mother informed the probation department that her daughter said that Pettway once hit her with a shoe so hard that it left an imprint on her face.
As Pettway admitted her guilt, Carlina’s birth mother Joy White quietly cried in the court’s gallery.
Afterwards, she said she felt a decade in prison would be too light a punishment for the woman who had robbed her so cruelly. Justice, she said, would be one year for every year she was separated from Carlina.
“I’ve lost 23 years of being with my daughter,” she said, adding that those decades were filled with pain and heartache.
During the proceedings, Pettway told the court: “I went to the hospital. I took a child. It was wrong.”
In a letter to the judge before sentencing, Pettway apologised and said the kidnapping would never have occurred if seeking professional help for mental trauma from her failed pregnancies and being able to discuss family secrets had not been forbidden in her family’s home.
“Because of my actions so many lives were hurt,” she said in the handwritten letter.
She said she still loves the woman she raised, “a wonderful bright young woman”.
“All I can do now is ask forgiveness from her and her parents. It may not sound correct on paper but I am hopelessly SORRY,” she wrote. “My action led to such a huge loss for her parents, but there is nothing I can do to right this wrong that I committed.”
Ms White said she encountered Pettway at the hospital on the day her daughter disappeared, dressed like a nurse.
“She came up to me and said to me ‘Don’t cry. Your daughter is going to be OK’.”
The case was solved by Carlina herself.
As she grew up in Connecticut under the name Nejdra Nance, the girl became increasingly suspicious of her own identity. Pettway ultimately told her a part-truth. She admitted that she was someone else’s daughter but claimed she had been willingly given away by a drug addict.
Carlina White said she browsed the website of the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children for clues to her identity. After matching a photo of herself with one on the site, she tracked down her true mother and they were reunited in January last year. A DNA test confirmed they were mother and child.
Today, they speak every day, Joy White said.
“I love my daughter. She’s a beautiful girl,” she said, adding that she had kept a picture of her missing baby at her bedside for 23 years.
Ireland’s top judges will rule today if a former IRA hunger striker-turned-property tycoon should go back behind bars for breaking court orders.
Thomas McFeely, who was declared bankrupt in Dublin yesterday, has appealed against a contempt of court judgment, a three-month sentence and a one million euro fine to the Supreme Court.
The ruling will be delivered by the five-judge court this morning.
The case centres on McFeely’s Priory Hall development in Donaghmede, north Dublin.
About 300 people were left homeless and had to be rehoused when they were evacuated from the complex last October amid warnings that it was a fire hazard.
The developer was ordered by the High Court in Dublin to carry out remedial works, but was jailed and fined when he did not.
He was freed later that day when he lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Barristers for McFeely argued that it had not been possible for their client to comply with orders because he had been evicted from the site almost two weeks earlier.
But Dublin City Council, which ordered the evacuation of 65 families on safety grounds, has objected.
McFeely, who served 12 years in the Maze Prison for shooting an RUC officer in Londonderry, spent 53 days without food during the 1980 hunger strikes.
On his release in 1989 he went to Dublin and worked on building sites, where he made his fortune in land deals and property developments – eventually buying a former embassy on Dublin’s leafy Ailsbury Road.
The Derry-born builder was made bankrupt in London earlier this year, but it was challenged by Theresa McGuinness, from Rush, Co Dublin, who told the court that proceedings were already active against him in Ireland.
McFeely claimed the legal challenge to his UK bankruptcy breached his rights as a British citizen – and maintained he was not a citizen of the Republic of Ireland.
“As a British citizen, I have always objected to being forced into bankruptcy in a foreign jurisdiction purely on the basis that I have a judgment liability in that state,” said the former IRA man.
The High Court in London recently overturned the bankruptcy order issued in January and the action in Dublin continued.
McFeely argued he would be 76 by the time he could get back into business if declared bankrupt in Ireland because of stricter rules, while it would be just a year before he could be back in business in the UK.
Abu Qatada is launching a fresh bid for freedom at the High Court.
The radical preacher will today ask two judges for permission to challenge his ongoing detention by Home Secretary Theresa May.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) ruled two months ago his detention was lawful.
Leaving him free during heightened security for the 2012 Olympics would be “exceptionally problematic”, a judge said.
Lawyers for Qatada, referred to in legal documents as Omar Mahmoud Othman, are expected to argue that the Home Secretary and Siac are acting unlawfully.
The lawyers are applying for permission to seek judicial review and a writ of habeas corpus freeing him from custody while he fights deportation to Jordan.
His last appeal to the European Court of Human Rights over his removal failed on May 9.
Qatada, who is said to have wide and high-level support among Islamic extremists, was convicted in his absence in Jordan of involvement with terror attacks in 1998 and faces a retrial in his home country.
Mrs May restarted deportation proceedings in April after she received assurances from the Jordanian authorities that evidence obtained by torture would not be used against him.
His legal team say they will take the battle back to the European courts if Siac rules against him at a tribunal hearing fixed for October.
Qatada, who is accused of involvement in several bomb attacks, is being held at high-security Long Lartin Prison in Worcestershire. A judge described him as the late Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe.
He featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the September 11 bombers.
Edward Fitzgerald QC, representing Qatada, argued at the Siac hearing in May that it would be “quite wrong” if he had to remain in prison pending his deportation challenge.
But Mr Justice Mitting said: “I’m satisfied that managing the risk posed by the appellant outside a category A prison during (the Olympics) would be exceptionally problematic.”
Repeated failed attempts by UK governments over the last 10 years to deport the radical cleric have cost nearly £1 million in legal fees, Government figures show.
No figures have been given for how much Qatada has received in legal aid and some estimates put the cost of keeping him in the UK, either in a high-security jail or closely monitored under strict conditions in the community, along with the legal costs of the fight to deport him, at more than £3 million.
A Home Office statement said: “Abu Qatada’s legal team are clearly clutching at straws in their attempts to get this dangerous man released, when jail is where he belongs.
“We will strongly resist any attempt to overturn the court’s decision to keep him locked up ahead of his removal from the UK.
“We agree with Justice Mitting’s ruling to keep Qatada in prison and these are the last desperate attempts of a man who has run out of options.”
A former detective jailed for life for murdering his partner and fellow officer whose body was discovered in a shallow woodland grave was found hanged in his cell today.
Peter Foster’s death at Lewes Prison in East Sussex comes just three days after a man who knifed his controlling stepfather to death was found hanged at the same jail.
Foster, a 36-year-old former detective constable, was jailed for life and told he must serve at least 17 years at Lewes Crown Court last month after admitting murdering his partner.
Foster stabbed Detective Constable Heather Cooper, 33, before dumping her body in Blackdown Woods, near Lurgashall, West Sussex, in October last year.
Foster’s death comes after Nathan Vaughan-Jones, who stabbed his stepfather to death after a long-running family feud boiled over, was found hanged at the same prison on Friday night.
The 34-year-old had been jailed for 11 years in March after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of 63-year-old Nigel Ross on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Vaughan-Jones stabbed Mr Ross 41 times in the garden of his sister’s home in Mill Lane, South Chailey, near Lewes, East Sussex, on March 29 last year.
A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “HMP Lewes prisoner Peter Foster was found hanging in a cell at 3am on Monday July 30.
“Prison staff tried to resuscitate him and paramedics were called but he was pronounced dead at 3.25am.
“As with all deaths in custody, the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation.”
It is understood Foster was subject to suicide-prevention measures at the jail.
Miss Cooper was killed at the couple’s home in Haslemere, Surrey, while she was on maternity leave with her second child, who was born just weeks prior to her death.
The court heard that Foster claimed Miss Cooper had attacked him and he initially acted in self-defence but then his actions turned to aggression.
The hearing was told he hit her over the head 10 times with a baseball bat before stabbing her in the throat.
The court was also told that Foster did not have a clear memory of the events.
Miss Cooper, who grew up in York, joined Surrey Police in 2003 and worked in the Public Protection Investigation Unit based at Guildford police station.
During her career she received several letters of praise from senior officers for her work on various crimes and in 2009 was given a commendation by the force for her “professionalism, dedication and commitment”.
Sentencing Foster, Judge Richard Brown described him as an “extremely dangerous individual” who may never be safe to be let out of prison.
He said: “This was a wicked, savage and senseless attack on a young mother in her own home.
“Not only have you taken her life, you have also deprived Joshua and Isabel of a loving mother and, no doubt, devastated her family and friends.”
The judge added that aggravating factors were that the attack was carried out in front of the couple’s children, that the defendant was trained in martial arts, and the ferocity of the attack, which involved two weapons.
He told him: “Whether or not you will ever be released will be a matter for them.
“Many matters may point to you being an extremely dangerous individual.
“However, that’s a matter for the Parole Board, not me.”
Benjamin Aina QC, prosecuting, told the court Foster carried out the attack in front of the couple’s two young children, Joshua, now three, and Isabel, who was only three months old at the time.
Foster took time to clean up the blood-soaked crime scene and took Miss Cooper’s body to the woodland, where he covered it with bracken, Mr Aina said.
He also told his cousin, David Foster, some of the details about what happened, leading him to alert the police.
The court heard that Foster then led officers to where he had hidden Miss Cooper’s body after telling them they should arrest him for murder.
Philippa McAtasney QC, defending, said last month that Foster, who had been married previously, had made a “serious” attempt to commit suicide while on remand and was staying on a mental health wing of the prison.
She said Foster, who worked as a plumber after leaving the police, had over-reacted after Miss Cooper initially attacked him.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, Miss Cooper’s parents, James and Caroline Cooper, said the murder had an unimaginable impact on the two children who witnessed it.
“Through her death, Heather lost her children for 50 years of her life, Joshua and Isabel have been given a life sentence by the loss of their devoted mother.
“Heather would have been devastated to know she would not be able to bring up her children and Isabel would never know her mummy and Joshua would suffer grief at such a young age.”
A feminist punk rock group who staged a protest against Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral went on trial today accused of hooliganism, facing up to seven years in prison.
The Pussy Riot band – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (above), 23, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 – have been in custody for five months since their February stunt. Their prosecution has caused a sharp public divide and drawn protests from rights groups who have declared them prisoners of conscience.
The trial began on July 20 but the first sessions were devoted to procedural issues.
Today with the court turning to the substance of the case, Tolokonnikova and other defendants said in statements read by their lawyer that their goal was to express their resentment over Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill’s support for Mr Putin’s rule.
They pleaded not guilty to the official charges of hooliganism driven by “religious hatred.” Tolokonnikova said she felt sorry if some of the believers felt insulted by their act, but that they did not mean to offend anyone. It was not clear how long the trial might last, but a court has recently ruled that the women should be kept in custody for another six month. Two other participants in the performance have not been identified and remain at large.
Mr Putin has avoided comment on the case, but many commentators believe that he has given his blessing to the prosecution as part of a crackdown on dissent following unprecedented protests in Moscow against his 12-year rule. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that was up to the court to issue a verdict.
A man who knifed his “controlling” stepfather to death after a long-running family feud boiled over has been found hanging in his cell.
Nathan Vaughan-Jones, 34, was found at Lewes prison in East Sussex at about 8.30pm on Friday and pronounced dead about half-an-hour later, the Prison Service said.
He was jailed for 11 years in March after he pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 63-year-old Nigel Ross on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
He stabbed Mr Ross 41 times in the garden of his sister’s home in Mill Lane, South Chailey, near Lewes, East Sussex, on March 29 last year.
Days earlier, Vaughan-Jones had returned to Britain from Bermuda, where he lived with his wife, to hear of Mr Ross’s “dominating” attitude towards other family members, Maidstone Crown Court heard.
A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “HMP Lewes prisoner Nathan Vaughan-Jones was found hanging in a cell at approximately 8.30pm on Friday July 27.
“He was pronounced dead at approximately 9pm.
“As with all deaths in custody, the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation.”
It is understood Vaughan-Jones was not subject to suicide prevention measures.
Vaughan-Jones had suffered from ME since he was 23, and had experienced bouts of depression since the age of 15 partly because of feelings of rejection by Mr Ross, the court heard.
Vaughan-Jones’s depressive state was said to have worsened after he returned from Bermuda, and it coincided with concerns he had heard about Mr Ross’s behaviour to other relatives.
The court was told that the relationship was fraught and, according to Vaughan-Jones’ sister, Mr Ross would use “emotional blackmail and bullying techniques” to get his own way.
Matters came to a head when Vaughan-Jones and his stepfather had a confrontation, leading to Mr Ross suffering fatal stab injuries.
The court heard that Vaughan-Jones may have perceived Mr Ross as posing a greater threat than he actually was, leading to him losing his self-control and stabbing him.
Passing sentence in March, Judge Michael Lawson QC told Vaughan-Jones: “You were obviously aware of the difficulties at home. No doubt you came to England not realising quite how difficult the situation was.
“Families are either the best and secure of places or they place strains that are unacceptable. I’m not going to judge the rights and wrongs.
“What I do is accept that you felt a huge responsibility. There was that problem of the over-control by Mr Ross.”
The judge accepted that Vaughan-Jones’s actions were not premeditated.
He went on: “Nevertheless the taking of a knife to a place where you were going to have a discussion, or more likely an argument, carries enormous risk.
“I accept that the situation that you found yourself in on your return and your natural protectiveness of your family can be seen as provocation to you.”
The judge added Vaughan-Jones was a “gentle and generous and decent” man under normal circumstances.
Vaughan-Jones’s wife, Vikki, told the court there was a noticeable difference in her husband’s character when Mr Ross was around.
She said: “He was muted, not as confident and not as openly expressive. His demeanour would change. It was like he was treading on eggshells in Mr Ross’s presence.
“It was as if Mr Ross had some control over Nathan in a subtle and non-verbal manner.”
She said her husband had never expressed an intention to kill or harm Mr Ross.
Defence counsel Michael Wolkind QC said Vaughan-Jones was a “truly exceptional” man who had expressed “deep remorse and sadness” for the killing.
But he added: “Nigel Ross was beyond reason and, in the end, the killing arose because he was poised to manipulate the knife and get his own way as usual.”