Fraud trial collapses as 'expert' witness used in at least 20 other cases found to be unqualified
A fraud trial has collapsed after an “expert” witness used in at least 20 other cases was found to be unqualified.
Andrew Ager, who has been used in a string of court cases, was found to have no academic qualifications and could not remember if he had passed his A-levels, defence lawyers said.
Called to give evidence in a trial centred on carbon credits, he admitted he had never read a book on the subject – but had once watched a documentary about the permits.
The situation came to light after defence lawyers for Steven Sulley, one of eight men acquitted of fraud at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday, questioned Mr Ager about his background.
He said he kept sensitive material given to him by police in a cupboard under the stairs, and some was lost during a leak. Thereafter it was kept in a locked box on his balcony.
Mr Sulley’s defence team, led by barrister Narita Bahra QC, said Mr Ager had been used in more than 20 fraud prosecutions as an expert witness.
In a statement posted on the website of law firm 2 Hare Court, the legal team said: “As a result of the cross-examination of Mr Ager, the safety of the convictions in every previous carbon credits prosecution is now in question.”
They claim that City of London Police officers had made no note of their meetings with Mr Ager or any record of the material they had given him.
The defence team also said that the CPS and the police did not disclose the fact that another expert witness, Peter Buckie, had faced misconduct allegations in 2013.
The statement went on: “It is apparent that there are systemic failures within the investigation and disclosure processes at City of London Police that are likely to impact upon all prosecutions undertaken in the last eight years.”
Prosecutors offered no evidence in the trial of eight men for conspiracy to defraud at Southwark Crown Court and all the defendants were acquitted.
The case centred on the sale of investment opportunities in carbon credits between November 2011 and February 2014.
Carbon credits are permits that allow companies or countries to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide gas. They can be traded for cash if the limit is not reached.
City of London Police apologised in the wake of the case collapsing.
A spokeswoman said: “This has been an enormously complex case of seven years’ duration. The case illustrates the significant change in the way fraud itself has evolved, along with our response in dealing with it.
“Together with our colleagues in the CPS, we apologise that the evidential and procedural issues in the case have led to its dismissal.
“Regrettably we haven’t been able to provide these victims with the level of service we continually strive for, and for that we sincerely apologise.
“Since this case started we have been changing how we and others in policing investigate fraud. Undoubtedly there is key learning we will take from this case which we will use going forward to provide a better service to the victims of fraud.”
The acquitted defendants are: Mr Sulley, 33, from Orpington, Kent; Christopher Woolcott, 37, from Longfield, Kent; Christopher Chapman, 31, from Fulham, south-west London; Lewis Deakin, 28, from Gravesend, Kent; Marcus Allen, 31, from Brixton, south London; Ashley Hunte, 37, from Beckenham, Kent; Daniel Martin, 42, from West Malling, Kent; and David Pierce, 32, from Billericay, Essex.
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “We have a duty to continuously review all our cases.
“Information has recently been brought to the attention of CPS which has led to the conclusion that our legal test for prosecution was no longer met and that it would be wrong to continue with the case against the defendants.”
The CPS spokesman added: “We are considering past cases to identify any in which Andrew Ager appeared as an expert witness and will consider any action necessary once these have been fully reviewed. Mr Ager will not be used as an expert witness in any future cases.”
Reporting by Press Association.