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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Nightmare of being charged with a crime that did not exist

A man has described the “two years of hell” he and his family endured after he was accused of committing a ‘crime’ of which he could not have been guilty.

Andrew Carter photo
Andrew Carter

Andrew Carter, 44, says it is astonishing that he could have been “dragged through the courts” to defend his good name when even the police and Crown Prosecution Service now admit he did nothing wrong.

Mr Carter, of Copperas Hill, Harrington, Workington, went on trial twice at Carlisle Crown Court charged with money laundering for a gang of drug dealers.

He said: “It’s been an absolute nightmare – not just for me, but for all my family and friends who have stood by me knowing I’d done nothing wrong. I am the victim, but they have all suffered and have become victims too.”

At the end of the first trial, which lasted over five days in January, the jury was unable to agree a verdict.

And it was only on Tuesday, with a new jury sworn in to hear a retrial, that lawyers realised that, according to two recent decisions by the Court of Appeal, the offence with which he had been charged did not in fact exist.

Barrister Tim Evans, who was acting for the prosecution in both trials, accepted legal submissions by defence counsel Christopher Knox that Mr Carter had no case to answer.

“We don’t propose to proceed with the charge and will offer no evidence,” he said.

And Mr Knox added: “It ought to be made quite clear that there is no doubt about it, that Mr Carter could not be guilty of the charge that was laid against him.”

As a result the jury formally found Mr Carter not guilty and he was discharged.

He will have the money he spent on 18 journeys to and from court repaid to him.

The judge also lifted a restraining order which for the past two years has prevented him having access to his bank accounts.

As he left the dock more than a dozen of his friends and relatives in the public gallery burst into applause.

Mr Carter was accused of providing £5,000 to two men – his long-time friend Mark Bower and his friend Edward Devlin – knowing that they would use it to install electricity at a ‘cannabis factory’ they and others were setting up on the Glasson industrial estate in Maryport.

Bower, 45, of Church Road, Harrington, was jailed for 10 years last year for his part in the drugs ring and Devlin, 55, of Stoneycroft, Great Clifton – who has since died – got 12 years.

The prosecution claimed Mr Carter paid the money knowing that it would be used to pay for the electrical system.

He was charged with becoming involved in money laundering by “providing £5,000 cash to another, knowing that the arrangement would facilitate the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property”.

Mr Carter did not deny providing the money but he said it was nothing to do with drugs.

He said it was simply to pay for a “boob job” for Bower’s girlfriend.

Mr Knox said that, according to Court of Appeal rules, in order for Mr Carter to be guilty the prosecution would have had to prove that when he supplied the money he knew it was to be used for the electricity supply to the cannabis factory.

“There is no room for suspicion – he would have had to know exactly what it was he was entering into,” he said.

He pointed out that there was no evidence that Mr Carter knew what the money was for, or that he had ever gone near the cannabis factory.

To provide money which was only later used for some criminal purpose could not be an offence, he said.

“The act the prosecution seeks to rely upon is not an offence and therefore Mr Carter cannot have committed the offence as alleged by the prosecution,” he said.

Afterwards Mr Carter questioned how the prosecution could have wasted so much money by taking a case to trial – twice – when it was based on a legal error.

“How can all this have gone through the court system for so long without someone realising that the offence I was being charged with did not exist?” he said.

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