Jury considers verdict in 'Mirror' City Slickers case

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The Independent Online

The jury in the City Slickers trial, where a former columnist from the Daily Mirror is facing charges that he created a misleading impression about the value of company share prices in the course of writing a stock market column finally retired to deliberate on its verdict yesterday, bringing the seven-week hearing at Southwark Crown Court in to its final phase.

Concluding his summing up before sending the jury out, Mr Justice Beaston told the panel of six men and six women to consider separately its verdicts for James Hipwell, the former Daily Mirror journalist, and Terry Shepherd, a day trader.

The pair are accused with conspiring to create a misleading impression about the value of investments during a period towards the end of 1999 and 2000.

Mr Justice Beatson told the jury that in deciding whether the pair had done this, they must consider carefully whether they believed tips in the Daily Mirror's City Slickers column moved the price of the companies mentioned. He said the jury needed also to consider the impact of articles written in other newspapers at the same time.

Also critical to their judgment, he said, would be the jury's decision as to whether Mr Hipwell and Mr Shepherd "intended to create a misleading impression, or knew the impression they were creating was misleading".

The judge stressed that to pass a guilty verdict on either defendant, the jury also needed to be sure that the individual had been party to an agreement, either with their co-defendant, or with the other journalist who wrote the Slickers column, Anil Bhoyrul. Mr Bhoyrul is not on trial.

In considering whether there was a conspiracy, the judge said the jury needed also to assess the importance of different time periods. Mr Shepherd did not begin trading in and around the tips of the Slickers column until the end of November 1999. However, he said the jury needed to consider whether they believed there was a conspiracy between Mr Bhoyrul and Mr Hipwell before Mr Shepherd's emergence. He said the jury should also consider the significance of the period towards the end of January 2000, when only Mr Shepherd, and not the two journalists, was trading around the tips.

Mr Justice Beatson added that the jury should be careful in considering evidence, put forward by either the defence or prosecution, which relies on comments or actions made by one or other of the defendants in the case, or by Mr Bhoyrul.

Mr Hipwell is accused of creating a misleading impression by trading in stocks which he wrote about in the Slickers column, and knowingly attempting to ramp the price of the shares. Mr Shepherd is accused of being part of a conspiracy with the Slickers journalists, due to the fact he also bought shares on several occasions on the day before they were tipped in the Mirror, and sold them shortly after. The pair deny the charges.

The jury is expected to deliver their decision before the end of the week, and if faced with a guilty verdict, the pair could be sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison. The court could also impose confiscation orders.

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