Inquiry into drug trial's collapse

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The Independent Online
THE ROLES played by Customs and Excise and senior barristers in the prosecution and eventual collapse of a pounds 34m cocaine-smuggling case are to be investigated by a retired High Court judge.

His Honour Gerald Butler will head an inquiry jointly set up by the Attorney-General's Office and Customs and Excise into the truth behind allegations that the Customs surveillance operation was illegal. It will also look at the approach taken by prosecution barristers and the advice they gave in relation to the surveillance.

The move follows a referral of the case to the Attorney-General's Office by the trial judge, Mr Justice Turner. Earlier this month he stopped the retrial of Brian Doran and Kenneth Togher after it was disclosed that Customs had failed to obtain permission from a hotel to carry out under- cover work.

In 1997 both men were sentenced to 25 years imprisonment and ordered to repay the Crown pounds 2m. But at the retrial Mr Justice Turner described the case as a "debacle", saying he had a "deep sense of judicial concern". He stopped the trial after hearing that Customs and Excise officers had crept into a Swallow Hotel in south-west London and installed hidden cameras and listening devices in Mr Togher's room.

The inquiry will also look into the non-disclosure of evidence in the case and applications for public interest immunity orders.

The Attorney-General, John Morris QC, made the announcement to set up the inquiry in an answer to a question in the Commons yesterday.