A man convicted alongside four others of a £53m cocaine smuggling plot has vowed to clear his name. Speaking yesterday on the BBC Victoria Derbyshireshow, Scott Birtwistle said that he was innocent and would continue the fight.
Birtwistle, one of the so-called ‘Freshwater Five’, was released from prison having served more than six years inside for a crime he has always insisted he did not commit. In 2011, Scott was convicted alongside three fishermen and a scaffolding boss for allegedly using a fishing boat to collect cocaine from a containership in the English Channel and then dropping it off in Freshwater Bay, off the coast of the Isle of Wight.
- You can watch a new film which aired yesterday on the Victoria Derbyshire show here.
‘I’ve lost the last seven years of my life,’ Scott told Derbsyhire. ‘I’ve gone from being 20 years old, and I’m now 27. That’s a massive part of my life I’ve just lost, for nothing.’
‘What have I got to gain coming on national TV if I was guilty? Surely if I was guilty I would just let it lie. I’ve served my time and I’m out. Why would I keep fighting for it even though I’ve been released from prison? What would be the sense in that?’
His solicitor, Emily Bolton, legal director of the Centre for Criminal Appeals, told the programme that ‘even the experts testifying were not given access to all the information that they needed to get it right, to present a complete picture’. ‘So, the experts themselves were misled, the jury was misled, the judge was misled,’ Bolton said. ‘And in the end, the Court of Appeal has the opportunity to put this right.”
The lawyer said that the jury was told that the fishing boat went behind the containership and picked up the sacks of cocaine. ‘We can now show that was not the case,’ Bolton said. ‘We can also show that where the sacks of cocaine were said to have been thrown off the fishing boat, in-shore, was a position that the fishing boat did not enter, and could not enter, according to her own navigational device.’
‘The odds are massively stacked against people’
The Justice Gap editor Jon Robins was interviewed about the process of appealing conviction and the role of the Criminal Cases Review Commission. ‘It is a real uphill struggle. The odds are massively stacked against people,’ Robins said. ‘We have a prison population of about 87,000 and every year about 1,500 people apply to the state funded miscarriage of justice watchdog body and last year only a dozen cases got back to the Court of Appeal. There has been a yearly average of 33 paces being referred. There are massive financial pressures on the watchdog.’
Derbyshire asked could it be that there were only 12 cases referred because there was no compelling new evidence in other cases. Robins argued that the drop in referrals was down to long-term funding problems. He pointed out that, on the CCRC’s own account, for every £10 pounds the the group had 10 years ago, it now has only £4 and, over the same period, its workload has gone up 60%. ‘Ironically, it’s the safety net mechanism for the criminal justice and the history of the Commission has been one of undermining almost from day one.’
Published on June 5, 2018
Author: Jon Robins
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon’s books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council’s journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year’s Criminal Justice Alliance’s journalism award