Maxwell judge appeals to jurors' common sense

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The Independent Online

Financial Correspondent

The judge in the long-running Maxwell trial told the jurors yesterday at the beginning of his summing-up that one of the key questions they must answer is how far Kevin Maxwell's evidence can be believed.

Lord Justice Phillips told the Old Bailey jury, on day 117 of the trial, that all the three defendants were of good character. However, Kevin had told the court about lies he told to various banks in the prelude to the collapse of the Maxwell empire in 1991. He had insisted that although he had been forced by his father, Robert Maxwell, to lie to the banks, everything he told the court was true.

The judge said Kevin had reacted with indignation to suggestions from the prosecution that he had lied in the witness box. He had given evidence for over 20 days, the judge said, adding: "I doubt if there have been many criminal cases where the jury has had a better opportunity to study the demeanour of a witness."

The judge said impressions are important. He also saidthe character of Robert Maxwell was important to the jury's decision since both the counts against the defendants are for conspiracy with the late tycoon.

Kevin Maxwell is accused of conspiracy to defraud the Maxwell pension funds. Kevin, his brother Ian, and Larry Trachtenberg are accused on a separate count of conspiracy to defraud the funds.

Both the defence and prosecution submissions were completed before Christmas and the summing-up - which continues today and is expected to last five days - was adjourned until yesterday to allow the jury a Christmas break.

Lord Justice Phillips defended the jury system against accusations that it was inadequate in cases of serious fraud.

He said 12 ordinary men and women had faced a challenge in understanding the workings of the City.

The judge said: "What is needed at the end of the day is common sense."