A CHAIN of conspiracy existed, but it was a chain reaching upwards to people unknown – not downwards to his client.
That was the theory put forward to the jury by Ian Goldrein QC in his closing speech of the Douglas East by-election trial.
Representing Gail Corrin, Mr Goldrein told the jury: ‘The relevant point for Mrs Corrin is not what the law is but what she honestly believed it to be.
‘If anyone was to benefit from this it was not Gail Corrin, it was Dandara. She knew nothing about absent votes or about proxies. When she went out with Buster Lewin her role was to hold the clip board.’
He said Mrs Corrin had not been involved in canvassing at care homes or sheltered accommodation or among the immigrant population and he said her relationship with Mr Lewin had ended some months before the 2010 Douglas East by-election.
‘Could it be the case that Buster Lewin is the puppet not the puppet master?’ he asked.
‘She was the most credible witness in this case and if what she said is true – or may be true - she is innocent.’
Mr Goldrein also criticised guidance used by police interviewing potential witnesses, which referred to their votes being ‘taken away’.
‘It sets out an agenda of guilt. It creates the risk of evidence that is fashioned to a police agenda of theft of votes. The police have contaminated this evidence by this questionnaire - or they might have done - and that really should be the end of the case,’ he said.
The jury were warned about witnesses with fading memories, who used phrases repeatedly such as ‘so far as I can recall’ and he reminded them that a number admitted they were in a rush, harassed or simply anxious to get rid of unwanted callers.
‘These were just ordinary people wanting to get on with their lives,’ he said.
He reminded voters the proxy forms were confusing - so much so that according to emails exchanged between Mr Lewin, Mr Woodford and sitting MHK Brenda Cannell, even Mrs Cannell seemed to have misunderstood how the system worked.
When a fax giving advice from an English barrister about proxy voting arrived at the campaign office, he said according to evidence of office manager Sarah Clague, Mr Woodford read it for five to ten minutes, though Mr Woodford said he didn’t look at it.
Mr Goldrein said Mr Woodford was implicated in the case along with Dandara, the Manx Election Trust and ‘people unknown’.
‘Kevin Woodford was clearly suspected by police but he walks free: Gail Corrin was the low-hanging fruit in this case. If they are innocent then Gail Corrin is squeaky clean.’
The conspiracy upwards theory was endorsed by Nigel Hamilton QC representing Kerry Rothwell. He reminded the jury there was no case to answer against Miss Rothwell’s campaign colleague Cathryn Liggins but said by contrast he too believed there was a ‘prima facie case’ against Kevin Woodford.
‘He should have been in the dock on our submission,’ he said.
During prosecution evidence, he said Dandara director Seamus Nugent had said if Dandara did well then the island did well. He told the jury it was a party political broadcast on behalf of the ‘Dandara Party’. He reminded them of the support being offered by the election trust to Mr Woodford – and possibly future candidates – if he were elected.
‘How many members of the Dandara Party are already in Keys?’ he asked.
He told the jury Mr Lewin had not wanted to employ bright girls, he simply wanted unquestioning workers and Miss Rothwell – then 23 with a small child – had ‘worked her butt off’ in the hope of a full-time job in the future. Recruiting voters from the care homes – ‘granny farming’ – as he called it, was not Miss Rothwell’s idea; reference to visiting the homes had been made in emails between Mrs Cannell, Mr Lewin and Mr Woodford, he said.
Cairns Nelson summing up the prosecution case told the jury the key issue was dishonesty.
‘We are not here to decide on mere mistakes, breaches of the rules or moral responsibility,’ he said.
The jury is expected to retire today to consider its verdict on the conspiracy charge against Miss Rothwell, aged 25, of Clifton Terrace, Douglas and Gail Corrin, aged 40, of Cronk-y-Berry Avenue, Douglas.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Isle of Man
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 6 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 32 mph
Wind direction: North west