Successes of the Month - March 2012
- Becky Owen secures first ASBO of its kind for bird egg thief
- Merenda Beckley quotes 'The Usual Suspects' to secure a conviction
- Russell Burgoyne, Liz Fowles, Dan Gorman and Steve Lomas save the Service £60,000 through their expertise and dedication
- Rachel Reeder pulls out all the stops to get security clearance for DWP staff
- David Wooler, Katie Perry, the Gwent Trials Unit Administration Team, Sally Stock and the Gwent Witness Care Unit Team - superb handling of a very emotive case
- Gemma Berry and Gemma Ridsdale, CPS Yorkshire and Humberside, Dave Walker, Helen Prescott, Andy Page, Janette Kelly, Alan Currums, Jeanette Wilkins, Peter Hussey, Matt Bibby, Rob Girvan, Linda Searle, Alisa Slavin, Nic Spring, Angie Rowan, Sara Bibby, Sharon King and Sharon Saunders, all of CPS Mersey-Cheshire: driving forward the technological advances in the Criminal Justice System
- Honourable mentions - more examples of outstanding work
Becky secures first ASBO of its kind for bird egg thief
Matthew Gonshaw, a serial egg collector from Tower Hamlets, pleaded guilty to stealing eggs from a number of rare bird species such as Golden Eagles and Ospreys so that he could add them to his collection of birds' eggs. He was sentenced to six months in prison.
Senior prosecutor Becky Owen advised the police pre-charge, authorised the charges, prosecuted the case in court and represented the Crown at the post-conviction ASBO hearing. She also advised the police and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) on what evidence would be needed for a successful prosecution, and helped them to collect the material necessary for applying for a post-conviction ASBO.
It could easily be proved that the ASBO was necessary given his offending behaviour, however the Prosecution Team also had to show that his actions had caused harassment, alarm or distress to people within England and Wales. As many of the witnesses were in Scotland, where many rare birds breed, witness statements were gathered from other RSPB activists within England and Wales who had been affected by his actions.
Under the terms of the 10 year ASBO, Gonshaw is prohibited from visiting RSPB and National Trust land, leaving England for the purpose of travelling to Scotland between February and August (the birds' breeding season), taking or being in the possession of wild birds' eggs, disturbing wild birds while they are building a nest or inspecting the nests of any wild bird during the breeding season or when it is in use. Breaking the terms of the ASBO could lead to a £20000 fine and up to 5 years' imprisonment.
Becky said: "Matthew Gonshaw's criminal actions caused untold damage to wildlife in the UK. These illegal activities can also lead to considerable financial losses to the tourist industry as, if the birds cannot breed due to their nests being disturbed, rare species could eventually become extinct and birdwatchers would no longer travel to observe them."
DCP Lionel Idan said: "This case involved a specialist area of crime which is rarely prosecuted in London and Becky's careful handling of the case from cradle to grave is a measure of her ability and versatility as a Prosecutor. The successful outcome and imposition of an ASBO in a case such as this - the first ASBO of its kind for a wildlife offence - is a true reflection of Becky's conscientiousness, dedication and determination."
The real-life 'Usual Suspects'
James Willis, a manager at Robert Dyas, the household goods shop, in Fleet, Hampshire, was accused of recording numerous fraudulent refunds and pocketing the cash - totalling £4,845.
At trial at Aldershot Magistrates' Court, Merenda Beckley, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS Wessex, showed Willis had fabricated customer names in the same way as Kevin Spacey's character in the Oscar winning film, The Usual Suspects...
The defendant claimed the refunds were genuine, however handwriting analysis showed conclusively that a number of the refund requests had been written by the same person.
As she was preparing the case, Merenda drew on her in-depth local knowledge when she spotted something... and in cross examination, she delivered the decisive blow:
"Mr Willis," she asked, "have you seen the film, 'The Usual Suspects'?"
"No," he replied.
"Let me enlighten you," continued Merenda. "There is a very famous scene at the end of the film, in which Kevin Spacey's character is being interviewed by two officers. He gives a very plausible account and is released from custody. It is only after his release that they realise he was reading from a noticeboard on the wall behind them, from which he fabricated various names and places."And that scenario is exactly what this schedule of fictitious customer names and addresses amounts to. For example, the names 'Lock', then 'Smith' then 'Baker' appear. In Fleet, just opposite Robert Dyas, there is a locksmith called "Baker". I put it to you that you were gazing out of your shop for inspiration and have written down the names you saw."
The Bench took only a short time to return verdicts of guilty to all of the charges.
James Burnham, DCP, said: "This exemplary work is what we have come to expect of Merenda. Fraud cases committed by employees are often tricky to prosecute in the absence of eyewitnesses. Merenda brought her own personal touch to this case - her local knowledge helped her to spot crucial proof of the defendant's guilt. As a result she achieved an excellent result, of which she can be justly proud."
Saving the Service thousands through their expertise and dedication
The CPS's Human Resources (HR) Information Technology system is crucial to ensuring all of our staff are paid correctly and that essential employment data is recorded and reported upon. Without the system, the CPS would be unable to operate effectively as an organisation that employs more than 7,000 staff.
A secondary supplier to the CPS's main HR IT system contractor gave a very short period of notice to withdraw their services, which would require the Service to enter into a new contract at a cost of £60,000. Despite the primary contractor's best efforts, there appeared to be no solution other than to pay the £60,000 contractual fee.
Russell Burgoyne, Liz Fowles, Dan Gorman and Steve Lomas from the HR Systems team came up with an alternative plan and picked up the challenge of transferring the data and system functionality to a new IT platform. Using their considerable expertise and dedication, the team worked evenings and a weekend as they had just days to transfer the HR system from the previous platform to a new environment. With detailed planning and painstaking execution, the transfer was a complete success, enabling the system to function seamlessly whilst saving the CPS the £60,000 contractual cost of entering into a new contract with the secondary supplier.
Mark Summerfield, HR Director, said: "I am absolutely delighted with the team's work. What initially appeared to be a major issue for the department was resolved through innovative thinking and sheer hard work, securing the integrity of the system whilst avoiding a significant cost to the department."
Rachel pulls out all the stops to get security clearance for DWP staff
The Department of Work and Pensions' (DWP) prosecution functions and staff have transferred across to the Crown Prosecution Service, where they have become part of the CPS's Central Casework Division. The CPS, as a matter of policy, requires staff working within the Central Casework Division to be security cleared to a certain level. The DWP had no such requirement, so the staff - approximately 130 of them - needed to be cleared to the appropriate level.
The CPS Departmental Security Unit (DSU) were asked to process security clearances for the DWP staff in December 2011 and this work was assigned to Rachel Reeder to progress as a priority.
Rachel worked tirelessly, including over the Christmas period, to make sure that the proper clearances were obtained. She was on hand to assist DWP staff over the phone with queries, provided help with completing their forms and was the liaison point between DWP and the supplier of the vetting service, DBS (Defence Business Services). She also produced regular statistics, which were used to update relevant senior management.
When issues arose which had the potential to cause delays, Rachel proposed a solution which ensured that the necessary security clearances could be completed on time, avoiding unnecessary anxiety for DWP staff about to move over to the CPS and reassuring senior management.
Narinder Shergill, Deputy Departmental Security Officer, said: "Rachel has completed this work to the highest standard while still managing to ensure that day-to-day support to the Departmental Security Unit was maintained and other urgent clearances for CPS staff were processed when necessary.
"Rachel's hard work and commitment have been really commendable. She's pulled out all the stops to make sure that this difficult process has progressed as smoothly as possible."
Crown Advocate David Wooler, Paralegal Officer Katie Perry, Gwent Trials Unit Administration Team, Witness Care Officer Sally Stock and the Gwent Witness Care Unit Team, CPS Wales/Cymru
Superb handling of a very emotive case
This very high profile case involved the rape and murder of heavily pregnant 19-year-old Nikitta Grender, the destruction of her unborn child, who had already been named Kelsey-May, and arson. The case attracted strong feelings locally, with some in the community questioning why two murder charges had not been laid.
Knowing that homicide legislation could not apply to the death of the unborn child, but realising the importance of a separate charge to recognise what happened, David Wooler charged Karl Whant, the murderer, with a rarely used piece of legislation - the crime of Child Destruction, dating back to 1929 - relating to the death of Kelsey-May. He then went to great lengths to explain the reasoning - and the fact that murder charges cannot be brought in crimes against unborn children - to the local community and the wider public via the media.
Paralegal officer Katie Perry, assisted by the Gwent Trials Unit Administration team, carried out a massive amount of work to support the case through court in a thoroughly professional manner. The public and press galleries were always packed, often with people locked out - which meant that even getting in and out of the court room was sometimes a battle. With over 50 witnesses, the case was also a challenge for Sally Stock (WCO) supported by colleagues in Gwent's Witness Care Unit, who handled the workload with great professionalism.
Gemma Berry and Gemma Ridsdale, CPS Yorkshire and Humberside, Dave Walker, Helen Prescott, Andy Page, Janette Kelly, Alan Currums, Jeanette Wilkins, Peter Hussey, Matt Bibby, Rob Girvan, Linda Searle, Alisa Slavin, Nic Spring, Angie Rowan, Sara Bibby, Sharon King and Sharon Saunders, all of CPS Mersey-Cheshire
Driving forward the technological advances in the Criminal Justice System
All of the above were nominated for their contributions to the work that we are doing in the CPS to move to digital working - the introduction of the electronic file to replace the paperwork that the criminal justice system has used until now.
Gemma Berry was nominated not once, but twice - she was described as "an absolute marvel" and "a credit to North Yorkshire" for providing "an enormous amount of training and support to her colleagues around the introduction to digital working, whilst learning the new processes herself."
Gemma Ridsdale's colleague, Gillian Needham, said: "Gemma's attitude is always positive. She's always willing to help anyone or try anything new in order to improve the way we work."
Of the Mersey-Cheshire team, Trevor Gordon, Senior District Crown Prosecutor, said: "The nominees named here have helped develop this programme and have supported our progress - as well as 'doing the day job'. Much of CPS Mersey-Cheshire's progress towards digital working is thanks to them."
Lawyer David Williams and caseworker Reshma Khilosia, Central Fraud Goup
James Ibori, former governor of Delta State, in Nigeria, was successfully prosecuted in connection with £200m of corrupt money taken out of the state of Nigeria and laundered worldwide. David and Reshma have both recently been justifiably praised by other government departments for their efforts in bringing Ibori to justice.
Complex Casework Unit and Regional Asset Recovery Team: Brin Hurford, Felicity Galvin, Paul Taylor, Jayne Lawlor, Catrin Evans, Kathy Loosemore, and Diane Brearley, plus Suzanne Thomas, Mandy Williams, Ann Williams and Pam Williams, CPS Wales/Cymru
A very strong partnership between the CPS and police in dealing with organised crime (notably on drug supply cases) and the resulting asset recovery issues in Wales has received significant praise this month, including a Judge's Commendation. The High Sheriff of Cardiff organised a presentation event at the Mansion House in Cardiff to recognise the work of the police and CPS teams. Just after the event was held, Suzanne, Mandy, Ann and Pam had another major success resulting in significant sentences, totalling over 130 years, for over 20 drug dealers.
Lawyer Jeremy Temkin and caseworker Satti Sahotay, Central Fraud Group
Jeremy and Satti devoted a huge amount of time and effort into the case of Pruthi - the UK's largest ever Ponzi fraud, involving £100m taken from investors in the UK - which resulted in guilty pleas only after lengthy legal arguments on abuse of process and admissibility of evidence had all failed.