The case of the Freshwater Five, convicted a decade ago of attempting to smuggle £53m of cocaine into the UK, made it to the court of appeal in February where new evidence was heard that the men hoped would clear their names. Anushka Asthana followed the week-long hearing, sitting alongside the men’s families as the barristers argued the case.
The court of appeal can consider new evidence not already heard by the original jury, and so the bar to overturning the convictions was set high. Nevertheless, the appeal had several grounds: one aspect focused on new radar data that the men hoped would show they were not close enough to the cargo ship that was alleged to be the other vessel involved in the transfer of drugs. There was also evidence that purported to show a new suspect vessel in Freshwater Bay as well as a surveillance plane that should have been able to spot the drugs floating in the water if indeed they were there at the time the prosecution suggested.
In the event, the arguments were not enough to convince the judges that the original conviction was unsafe. The appeal had failed and the convictions were upheld. The decision, which came last Thursday, was a hammer blow to the men and their families. Danny Payne tells Anushka that it brought back all the memories and emotions of the original trial. Sue Beere describes her efforts to comfort her children and the rest of the family with the knowledge that her husband, Jon, will remain in prison.
For Emily Bolton there was disbelief that the court appeared to have given so little weight to what she saw as astonishing failures of the disclosure of evidence. She has vowed to continue to fight on behalf of the men despite this result.
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