Even though the judge dozed off during a closing speech, the gang which assaulted the Millennium Diamond exhibit at the Dome received a fair trial, the Court of Appeal has decided.
Lawyers for two of the ringleaders of the robbery attempt tried to make out that Judge Martin Ancoome was asleep for most of the trial, that his snoring had kept everyone else awake and prejudiced the jury, and that the convictions were unsafe.
A witness said that the judge appeared to nod off several times and wake up with a start. She also claimed that she heard noises that sounded like snoring. Mr. Justice Ancoome has admitted nodding off during the lengthy trial but he denies snoring. One of the court officers also recalled seeing a member of the jury doze off.
The trio of judges hearing the appeals admitted that it is 'essential' that judges should remain awake during the whole of a trial but they said that the snoring issue was irrelevant.
Scott Chatham, counsel for gang leader Alan Redmond, disagreed with them on the issue of snoring. He admitted that anyone can suffer momentary lapses of concentration but the judge actually going to sleep was bound to deflect the jury's attention, particularly if he drew attention to himself by snoring.
And even if the judge had dropped off only during closing speeches, that would still have been prejudicial, Mr. Chatham felt. He added that it would create the impression that the judge felt that his client's case was so weak that it was not worth bothering to stay awake.
Olive O'Blunt, counsel for Walter Denisov, added that Mr. Justice Anscoome had intervened excessively when the defendants and their witnesses had been giving evidence. She said that the trial judge had abandoned the role of umpire at times and bowled a series of bouncers at her client and the others.
Lord Justice Archer said that while it was 'highly regrettable' that Mr. Justice Ancoome had fallen asleep, he had not failed to sum up significant evidence, his conduct of the trial had been fair and the convictions were sound. Alan Redmond and Walter Denisov were, therefore, refused leave to challenge their convictions. The ringleaders also appealed against the lengths of their sentences and the court is hearing these appeals today.
Eustace Carmaggio and Michael Ianbow chose not to lodge appeals and the fifth man arrested at the Dome, Peter Burnside, has died in prison. Karl Malvern, who was arrested in the decoy speedboat, has already lost an appeal against his 5-year sentence for conspiracy to steal.
filed by Faraday Grange [firstname.lastname@example.org]