Police nearly blew their biggest trial of all time

It was, by their own admission, the biggest gang trial in which Greater Manchester Police had ever been involved, but the force nearly scuppered the whole thing.

After taking the precaution of moving the trial to Liverpool Crown Court to ensure the defendants were given a fair trial, Greater Manchester Police arranged a media event in which the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, and the force's chief constable, Peter Fahy, would extol the virtues of Operation Cougar – "a ground-breaking operation that has had a significant effect on gun and gang crime in Greater Manchester".

To emphasise this point they were to reveal that gun-related murders had dropped 92 per cent since August 2007, which was when Joyce and Amos were arrested, and that, since the murder of Louis Brathwaite in January 2008, no one had been shot in Greater Manchester for more than a year – a run unprecedented since the 1970s.

But police were forced to cancel the event on the day it was to be held after the judge said it would prejudice proceedings and threatened to halt the trial. He agreed with the defence counsel who said any media reports during the trial highlighting the reduction of gun and gang activity in Manchester could lead the jury to conclude that the reason for such a reduction was due to the fact that 11 gangsters were in the dock.

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