Why was this crucial evidence hidden from the jury?

Today is for obvious reasons a dark day, and I don’t wish to dim the light further by dwelling unnecessarily on tragedy. But, while it’s still doing the rounds in news cycles, just a brief word, if I may, on the “revelations” that have been published in the wake of the conviction of Clayton Williams for the manslaughter of Pc Dave Phillips yesterday.

Clayton-Williams

Clayton Williams

The basic facts are well rehearsed – in the course of a police chase, Williams drove a stolen vehicle towards Pc Phillips, causing his death. Williams, denying murder, maintained that he had not seen the officer, and had not intended to cause serious harm or death (the legal test for murder). After Williams was acquitted by the jury of murder, the jurors seemingly not satisfied that Williams drove deliberately at the officer, newspapers have reported that Williams’ co-accused, Philip Stuart, who was in the stolen car at the time, told police officers when he was interviewed that Williams had said “Watch this” before driving into Pc Philips. The jury were not told about this during the trial.

Why? Is this not critical evidence of Williams’ intent? What went wrong?

In short, nothing. It’s simply because, in a trial of multiple defendants – let’s call them A and B – the law does not allow for statements made outside a courtroom by one co-defendant (B) to be admitted in evidence against the other (A). In law it amounts to hearsay, as B’s statement was not evidence given in court, and A has not had the opportunity to challenge B on its accuracy. Where A and B are both on trial, and where B repeats in his evidence on oath what he said to the police in his interview (e.g. “A drove at the officer and said “watch this””), then it becomes evidence and can be used against A. But where, as in this case, B gives the police an account, and then pleads guilty, he is not a party at trial and so what he said to the police in his interview cannot be used against A. Indeed, to avoid prejudice to A, the jury will not even hear about B’s interview.

If the prosecution wanted to put before the jury what B told police in his interview, they would need to call B as a prosecution witness to get him to confirm his account on oath, and this is rarely attractive when B has pleaded guilty to a serious offence. Exhorting a jury to believe the good and truthful prosecution scuzzbag over the bad and lying defendant scuzzbag is often a fool’s errand.

And so, information which to the average reader appears obviously important to a jury’s understanding quite often doesn’t make its way into the evidence. This is why, when there are two co-defendants and B pleads guilty, the prosecution case against the remaining one (A) can often become significantly weaker, as the prosecuting barrister can’t make capital out of cross-examining A on all the glorious inconsistencies between A and B’s accounts to the police.

So now you know. No conspiracy, just the law in action, folks.

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UPDATE: So important is the comment below, from someone with far greater knowledge of the case, that it is worth reproducing in full here:

“Agree of course but what you don’t know, and how could you, is the full picture of what the Co-Defendant actually said. The reporting is, of course, woefully ill-informed (understandably – but little effort made to check accuracy or completeness). Yes the co-defendant stated that CW said “watch this” but it is taken entirely out of the rest of what the Co-D said in about 100 pages of interviews. That was all to the effect that CW was going over the central reservation to avoid the stop-stick, and that the “watch this” related to the manouevre to go round the obstacle. The Co-D repeated, again and again that there was no time to react to the officer suddenly moving back into the path of the car that was describing an arc around the stop-stick and officer. The Co-D stated more than once that the officer, unfortunately not wearing a hi-vis vest, “appeared out of nowhere”. The reporting has mislead all the multitudes who have “followed” this tragic case. The press have reported that CW “bragged” that he had killed a “bizzie” – there was no “bragging involved” – he was being wrestled to the ground by (possibly armed) officers and was explaining to youths watching what he was being arrested for. The conduct of this case from day 1, when the CC of Merseyside stated! stated! that it was “deliberate” and “murder”, through the reportage and primacy given to the understandable grief of those who knew the officer over the just and fair trial of CW, has been very depressing to behold! So yes, I agree (as ever) with your blog, but even then it only scratches the surface of the misleading nature of the reporting – which rather proves your point!
So thank you for highlighting this issue.”

10 thoughts on “Why was this crucial evidence hidden from the jury?

  1. Agree of course but what you don’t know, and how could you, is the full picture of what the Co-Defendant actually said. The reporting is, of course, woefully ill-informed (understandably – but little effort made to check accuracy or completeness). Yes the co-defendant stated that CW said “watch this” but it is taken entirely out of the rest of what the Co-D said in about 100 pages of interviews. That was all to the effect that CW was going over the central reservation to avoid the stop-stick, and that the “watch this” related to the manouevre to go round the obstacle. The Co-D repeated, again and again that there was no time to react to the officer suddenly moving back into the path of the car that was describing an arc around the stop-stick and officer. The Co-D stated more than once that the officer, unfortunately not wearing a hi-vis vest, “appeared out of nowhere”. The reporting has mislead all the multitudes who have “followed” this tragic case. The press have reported that CW “bragged” that he had killed a “bizzie” – there was no “bragging involved” – he was being wrestled to the ground by (possibly armed) officers and was explaining to youths watching what he was being arrested for. The conduct of this case from day 1, when the CC of Merseyside stated! stated! that it was “deliberate” and “murder”, through the reportage and primacy given to the understandable grief of those who knew the officer over the just and fair trial of CW, has been very depressing to behold! So yes, I agree (as ever) with your blog, but even then it only scratches the surface of the misleading nature of the reporting – which rather proves your point!
    So thank you for highlighting this issue.

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  2. As one of the woeful hacks who covered each and every day of this case, I have to disagree with the suggestion this isn’t even worthy of bringing to the public’s attention. What Utterbarrister does not touch on is that while the meaning and context of “watch this” could be argued, two separate co-defendants in two separate interviews said Williams made remarks about having ‘killed’ the officer very soon after the collision. This contradicts a large part of his evidence and while not being a knock out blow would surely have helped the prosecution’s case.
    The ‘killed a bizzie’ comment was what he said to his grandmother from behind the wheel seconds after the collision, according to Stuart, not what he said when he was arrested. The jury were told he shouted ‘going down for life me’ when police arrested him.
    It is also not a given that Stuart would be trying to ‘save his skin’ by portraying Williams in a more negative light; he had already admitted his role and I don’t see how his culpability would be increased or decreased by what Williams said seconds before the collision.
    I don’t think anyone is suggesting there is a conspiracy but it’s not unreasonable to question why the jury did not hear any of this evidence.

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  3. No sorry Jon. That was not what he said to his nan. First of all he called her, but got no answer. Then he spoke to her and said he was going to get nicked and she said he was “silly”, so he hung up on her. He then, on arrest, shouted to the youths watching him get (understandably) manhandled to the ground that he had “killed a bizzie” or words to that effect and would be getting life.

    He was always adamant that the first he knew of the tragic death of PC Phillips was the next morning. He knew, and Stuart knew, that he’d “clipped” the officer at the time and that the officer was injured but no more than that.

    There is always an issue with pleaded co-defendants and what they say in interview. The “watch this comment” was excluded as hearsay, by agreement, and because it was ambiguous. It is not the press’ fault, but none of you would have seen the extensive interviews of Stuart. He makes that reference in those interviews BUT he also says REPEATEDLY – it was an accident, the officer appeared out of nowhere, the officer came into the Mitsubishi’s path, Williams was going to go around the stop stick (as PS Mayne said in his first account on that very same morning, that is notably absent from any reporting….) and that they (Williams / Stuart) had no chance as the officer, NOT wearing the hi-vis just suddenly appeared and walked into their path.

    Report all of that in conjunction with the “watch this” comment and the whole thing has an entirely different complexion. But no, that is not reported. The two very misleading comments “watch this ” and “I killed a bizzie” are reported out of context and, I’m sorry to say, a very misleading way. The entirety of Stuart’s interview was substantially supportive of Williams’ case. But we were unable / not permitted to adduce, in law, that material. If you want to look for conspiracies, unfairnesses and injustices, I suggest you look at that and then do a piece on the real picture.

    The press throughout the trial – particularly the Liverpool Echo – strove to be even-handed and fair, but could only work on what they’ve been told. Similarly post trial and sentence, the flow of information was controlled, not by us, but by Merseyside Police and paints, with respect, a very misleading and incomplete picture.

    Unhappy rant over!

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  4. Yes I agree that was his account of what he said to his Nan, given during the trial, but it was Stuart’s account, according to the prosecution during his sentencing hearing, that he told her “I’m going away, I have just killed a bizzie.” That line would not have emerged in Stuart’s sentencing hearing if it was said when Williams was arrested.
    But the fact he said he had killed PC Phillips was also said by Georgia Clarke in her confession, so that is two witnesses coming out something that doesn’t benefit them but undermines a large portion of Williams evidence. He was indeed adamant he didn’t think he had killed PC Phillips until much later, but there are two people saying the opposite, with no reason to lie about that particular point. In fact in Clarke’s case it is probably worse for her to suggest she knew how serious his crimes were when she helped him.
    The way the “watch this” comment came out during Stuart’s sentencing hearing, which is the only way the press did or could have heard it, was the way we all reported it. Stuart’s counsel did not raise anything about him saying it was an accident so I dont think the police can be blamed for that.

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  5. The comments by two defendants, with their own interests to further… The full picture AT THE TIME – i.e. Stuart’s very lengthy interviews over many hours – contain a very extensive version of events – not two out-of-context snippets – and are entirely consistent with Williams’ defence, and inconsistent with the Crown’s case. It is not the “Police’s fault” that the rules are as they are, but they are, to an extent, behind that which is placed before the media, how certain things are released and how they are phrased. They do not trouble to contextualise the Stuart comment for example…

    Just saying that the full picture is very very different from that that is uncritically presented to the general public for their consumption. Whatever is said, ambiguously or otherwise by Stuart or Clarke, has not been subject to any critique, analysis let alone cross-examination by CW’s legal team. The various things said to the press / public by police, CPS, widow etc, again for reasons of propriety etc have not been challenged. That does not mean they are true and accurate…

    Just hoped that if the press are going to run with this sort of material, they would ask for some input from the defence – if only to confirm the accuracy or completeness or context…. But no…

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  6. As a general rule, I agree with what you say. But in this particular case, it was accepted by all parties that the contested issues were very narrow. It was not as if extra witnesses could open a whole new can of worms or a ‘grassy knoll’ type situation.
    I accept that like you say, “watch this” could be taken either way. But there is nothing ambiguous about Williams saying he killed or thought he had killed a police officer immediately after the incident. Two people have said this independently of each other, and on that particular point none of them stood to gain by saying it. They had admitted their offences, and in Clarke’s case Williams had already been picked up.
    I think in this case it is not sensationalist to suggest this information could have had a significant effect on the jury and question why it was not introduced.

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  7. Jon – to an extent, I blame the system but also the Police, who are a conduit of information to the Press. And yes, I blame the Press too, as they have reported that which fits their theme / trope but have not asked to see or tried to see the full picture.

    The Press have uncritically reported two or three soundbites without seeing i) if they are accurate and / or ii) if they are complete. Would it have been difficult to speak to DDE Law and see if they agreed or had any comment? The reporting is entirely one-sided and, as I am about to demonstrate, entirely inaccurate.

    Stuart’s interviews run to 77 pages, 78 pages, 157 pages – so a total well in excess of 350 pages. Throughout those interviews is riven a clear theme of “I didn’t / don’t like him [CW]” “I want to kill him [CW]”. There is no love lost, and no attempt to sweeten the pill in order to protect CW. So what does Stuart say throughout those 350+ pages of interview?

    In the first interview – he makes it clear he (they) didn’t know PC P was dead.

    He reiterates at p42 that “[CW] has not aimed for the police officer like it said in the paper THAT’s BOLLOCKS”

    p48 “The fella (PC P) should have been in the bushes wearing a high vis coat… and then run in front of the car like he was trying to be a hero…” Entirely consistent with CW’s account throughout.

    “[PC P]’s run over and put his arm like that…” again exactly as stated by CW in evidence, without any opportunity to compare and adapt stories.

    p49 “all he’s done is clipped him” – exactly as CW said and consistent with expert evidence.

    p.52 he recounts what CW said to his nan on the phone and he makes NO MENTION of “killing a bizzie” – what he says is “I’ve run a bizzy over”. Again consistent with CW’s acct. In later interviews, many hours later, so not his first account, Stuart phrases this as “killed” but that is not what he said in this his first interview.

    p.59 consistent with all other evidence and CW’s account, Stuart says at p59 “I didn’t think the fella was… dead”

    In the second interview, Stuart’s account is entirely consistent with CW’s evidence – “[the officer’s] been blacked out in the dark”.
    “Then the fuckin’ bizzie’s just appeared”

    “just clipped him…. can’t believe he’s dead”

    “He said ‘stinger'” – so Stuart is reporting that before the “watch this” comment, CW has seen the “stinger” – he’s not said that CW saw or mentioned “copper” or any person but rather “stinger”!

    p.52 “he hasn’t set out to kill that bizzie, he hasn’t… It’s been an accident, mate, a tragic accident that bizzie shouldn’t have put himself where he put himself… but that kid didn’t mean to kill him….”

    “No, he’s not intentionally tried to kill a fuckin’, to kill a policeman like they’re saying”

    p.56 – “only seen him for a second”

    Third and last interview – p.3 “as far as I was concerned, just a glimpse [of PC P]” and the officer was next to Stuart’s side of the car, not CW’s. The expert’s view was that the A pillar may well have blocked him from CW’s field of view.

    Thus, Stuart’s account, when read in full, and not selectively, is entirely consistent, and indeed fully supportive of CW’s defence. He does NOT unequivocally suggest that CW knew that the officer was dead there and then. The overall picture is that they did NOT know.

    I therefore agree that the above would have had a SIGNIFICANT effect on the jury. It was not introduced because Stuart would never have gone in the witness box on CW’s behalf and the Crown would never have agreed to the material as hearsay. Had the public been aware of this fuller picture, the headlines may have screamed that it was an injustice that he was convicted of manslaughter but rather that his criminality stopped at what he had pleaded guilty to – in effect, death by dangerous driving.

    As far as Georgie Clarke was concerned – her interviews are even more extensive – 46 pages, 46 pages, 54 pages and 249 pages – so a total about 400 pages.

    Is the actual evidence that she was told by CW that immediately on arrival at his aunt’s he said he knew that the officer had died? If it is, then that was capable of undermining that part of his defence. But, guess what, that wasn’t the full picture of her interview, not by a long shot.

    “I didn;t know he was dead”
    “I did try and burn them and that was BEFORE I found out someone had died”
    “I didn’t know he’d killed someone”
    “I woke up THE NEXT DAY and found out someone had died”
    “I don’t think he’d intentionally kill him”
    “… he come in… stripped… and said, well he was panicking obviously and then he said I’m gonna go back to jail”
    “I’ve rang him [the next day] and said why didn’t you tell me what you’ve done and HE SAID HE DIDN’D KNOW HE’D KILLED HIM”!!

    Her second interview – “he came in and said he’d HIT someone”
    “He thought he might have been dead but I didn’t believe him” – that’s the ONLY reference to this suggestion
    “news the next morning”
    “He said he didn’t see him….turned his head and he was just there” – exactly consistent with CW’s evidence.

    Third interview adds not much more. Fourth interview – days later, clearly concerned about her own position. She clearly states she doesn’t like CW and had no reason to defend him.

    “He told us he’d robbed a pet store… stole a car and killed a police officer on the way home… WELL HE’D HIT A POLICE OFFICER on his way home”! Again she actually CORRECTS herself to the effect that he DID NOT say he’d killed a police officer.

    So as with Stuart – both of their accounts are substantially, almost entirely consistent with CW’s defence. Neither say in terms what has been reported so widely and erroneously in the press. What they say backs up CW’s account.

    Had we been able to deploy this material before a jury, the result would not have been an acquittal for murder and a bare majority (compromise) conviction for manslaughter. It would, in my view, undoubtedly have been a unanimous acquittal on both. With him being sentence on his immediate pleas to, in effect, death by dangerous.

    Thus my complaint remains. The press have picked up on two comments that are not accurate, not the full picture and have ignored – either willfully or because they made not investigation – the full exculpatory picture.

    The defence have not “pulled a stroke” helping a guilty man get away with murder.
    Rather, you may feel, it is the diametric opposite!

    How wonderful it would be if someone in the press actually spoke to DDE, actually read these full interviews and actually printed the full picture / the truth, rather than these misleading 1/4 truths.

    But hey, I am not going to hold my breath….

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  8. Pingback: Hearsay – Employment Writes

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