Imprisonment  – Defendant stopping female following observing suspected drug deal – Defendant agreeing with co-accused to falsify result – Defendant informing senior officer of false result

R v Evans-Keady

The defendant was a serving police officer and had been a warranted police officer for a year at the relevant time. In January 2012, whilst on patrol on his own, the defendant observed what he thought to be a drug deal between two men and a woman. He approached them and searched them. The woman was found to have three wraps of a substance on her person. She was arrested and taken to a police station. The substance was subjected to a basic test, which was carried out by the co-accused, KC, a civilian employee of the police.

As KC was carrying out the test, the defendant entered the test room and explained that he felt sorry for the woman and had not really wished to have arrested her. The substance proved positive for cocaine. The defendant reacted by asking KC what they could do about the result. KC suggested that they could ‘chuck the test away’ and record it as a negative result. The defendant agreed. The defendant then informed the senior officer (the SO) of the negative result.

The SO decided to take no further action against the woman. Shortly thereafter, KC confessed to a female colleague as to what he had done. Subsequently, the defendant and KC were arrested and charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. KC admitted fault. The defendant put the blame on KC. At the first appearance, KC pleaded guilty. The defendant initially pleaded not guilty. KC provided a witness statement which was to be used against the defendant at his trial. On the day of the trial the defendant pleaded guilty. By the time of sentencing, the defendant admitted to his mistake. He accepted that he had let his conscience get the better of him. KC was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 24 months with a 250 unpaid work requirement. The defendant was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. The defendant appealed against sentence.

He contended that the sentence imposed was manifestly excessive. The appeal would be allowed.

It was established law that in cases of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice three factors had to be taken into consideration: (i) the seriousness of the underlying offence to which the conspiracy was directed; (ii) the degree to which the conspiracy offence persisted; and (iii) the effect of what the defendant done upon the course of justice.

The case was unusual. It has not been a case where the police officer in question had given false evidence against an innocent person. Nor had it been a case where the defendant had made personal gains through his offending. The defendant’s actions had been spontaneous. He had not thought of the serious consequences. The defendant’s sympathy towards the woman had been misplaced. It had not been for the defendant to decide to put the woman in a position where prosecution would be unlikely. There had been a serious abuse of power. The fact that the defendant was a serving a police officer at the time of the offence was an aggravating feature. Nevertheless, had the defendant maintained his plea of not guilty and been convicted he would have received a 12-15 month sentence and that would have been appropriate. The defendant was entitled to a modest deduction for his late guilty plea. The sentence should have been 12 months.

The sentence of two years would be quashed and substituted with a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment.

R v Tunney [2007] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 91 applied; R v Hesse [2004] All ER (D) 58 (Jan) considered.

Jenni Dempster (instructed by Slater & Gordon (UK) LLP) for the defendant.