Honesty questioned, say drug pair
Date published: 18 December 2012
TWO big-time drug-runners tried to convince the Court of Appeal their trial was unfair — because the judge questioned the honesty of a fellow Muslim who refused to swear an oath on the Quran.
Yasir Mahmood (27), of Brompton Street, Oldham, was jailed for six years and Afraq Ahmed (33), of Grendon Avenue, Oldham, for seven years after they pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court in May 2011 to conspiracy to supply class-A drugs.
They were members of a gang which used taxis to distribute millions of pounds worth of drugs across Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester in 2009.
Lord Justice Davis said one of men’s co-defendants, Ali Shan, decided to make a non-religious affirmation in the witness box rather than swear on the Islamic holy book.
Judge Khokhar then asked him: “Why didn’t you take the oath on the Holy Quran?” When Shan said he did not want to, the judge asked: “Are you an honest man?”
The judge then refused a request to discharge the jury on the ground the question had prejudiced the trial.
Appeal judge, Lord Justice Davis, said the directions then given to the jury by Judge Khokhar made it clear affirmation was just as binding on the conscience as a religious oath.
Ahmed and Mahmood took the stand after Shan and both also affirmed. On appeal, both men’s lawyers claimed the judge had damaged their credibility.
Lord Justice Davis, sitting with Mr Justice Keith and Judge Brian Barker QC, dismissed the appeals.
He said: “While the judge’s initial intervention was unfortunate, we consider that it was capable of correction by firm directions and, in this case, the directions were fairly firm.
“In the view of this court, there was not an irremediable prejudice caused to the defence, nor did it cause ultimate unfairness to them.”
One of the gang’s leaders, Fazal Hussain (45), of Cranbrook Street, Oldham, appealed against his nine years and eleven month sentence. He had admitted two counts of conspiracy to supply class-A drugs and possession of criminal property.
Dismissing his appeal, the judges rejected arguments his sentence was excessive compared to a co-defendant. Lord Justice Davis said: “We are not at all persuaded.”
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