Prosecutor is accused of 'meddling' with evidence

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A CROWN prosecutor 'meddled' with the evidence that he intended to use against six football fans accused of fighting at a match last year, a magistrates' court was told yesterday.

The court heard that a police constable had admitted changing the exhibit numbers on video tapes purporting to show the defendants at the game between Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United last February.

When asked why he had done this, the officer said that he was acting under instructions from Richard Berman, the Crown prosecutor, Tottenham magistrates in north London were told.

The case against the defendants, who had been charged with violent disorder and affray, was dropped in April after the switch of exhibit numbers came to light, the court heard.

Yesterday's hearing involved an application by the defendant's solicitors for their costs to be paid by the Crown Prosecution Service.

One of the solicitors, Paul Hinds, said that the six men had needed 'the best possible advice . . . to counter prosecution tactics'. He said: 'The position of the defendants was serious by virtue of this meddling with the evidence. Something amiss was going on.'

The recording would not have been admissible as evidence with its original exhibit number, the defence said. The officer had been told to make the switch in an attempt to get round this difficulty, the court was told.

Barry Hughes, for the prosecution, denied that 'there was anything amiss going on whatsover'. The evidence had not been changed.

The court decided defence costs incurred since last August should be paid by the CPS, but adjourned the case until October to determine the level of the costs.