Two members of cocaine smuggling gang lose fight to clear their names

Two members of ‘Freshwater Five’ cocaine smuggling gang who were jailed over £53m plot to import 250kg of the Class A drug lose fight to clear their names at Court of Appeal

  • Jonathan Beere and Daniel Payne were jailed in 2011 over the drugs conspiracy
  • They tried to bring the substance into UK via Freshwater Bay, off Isle of Wight 
  • But Court of Appeal today dismissed the pair’s bid to clear their convictions 

Two members of the ‘Freshwater Five’ cocaine smuggling gang, who were jailed over the £53m plot to import 250kg of the Class A drug, have lost their fight to clear their names at the Court of Appeal. 

Jonathan Beere, 51, and Daniel Payne, 46, were jailed in 2011 for 24 and 18 years respectively for conspiracy to import huge quantities of the substance into the UK via Freshwater Bay, off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

Payne and three co-defendants – Jamie Green, Scott Birtwistle and Zoran Dresic – were said to have collected the drugs from the English Channel in a fishing boat, the Galwad-Y-Mor, in May 2010.


Jonathan Beere, 51 (left), and Daniel Payne, 46 (right), were sentenced in 2011 to 24 and 18 years respectively for conspiracy to import the £53 million cocaine haul into the UK

Beere was alleged to have acted as a liaison between Green, the skipper of the Galwad who was also jailed for 24 years, and those organising the smuggling.

At their trial in 2011, Kingston Crown Court heard the Galwad crossed the path of the Oriane, a container ship sailing from Brazil, and then slowed down to collect the cocaine.

The Court of Appeal heard in February that new radar evidence showed ‘the Galwad never crossed behind the Oriane’, meaning it was ‘simply impossible’ for them to have collected the drugs.

Beere and Payne’s barrister Joel Bennathan QC said the new data ‘transforms the picture that was presented to the jury’.

But the Court of Appeal today dismissed Beere and Payne’s appeals against their convictions.

In the court’s ruling, Sir Julian Flaux – sitting with Mr Justice Andrew Baker and Mr Justice Calver – said: ‘Standing back and looking at all the evidence available at trial as well as the evidence now available, whilst the evidence is circumstantial, this was, as the (Criminal Cases Review Commission) concluded, a ‘compelling prosecution case of conspiracy to import cocaine’. 

Emily Bolton, director of the charity Appeal who represents the Freshwater Five, said in a statement: ‘Miscarriages of justice don’t just happen in the trial courts – today one happened in the Court of Appeal.

‘The court handed down a judgment which simply underscores just how profoundly broken the criminal appeals system is in this country.

‘There is no dispute that this is a case in which law enforcement and the prosecution failed to hand over crucial evidence to the defence at trial.

‘As we showed in the court hearing, that new evidence undermines the prosecution’s case on several fronts and gives a totally different picture to that which was presented to the jury.

‘Yet, in yet another failure to correct a miscarriage of justice, the Court of Appeal has said today that none of this matters.

‘The court has substituted its judgment for that of the jurors in a way that fundamentally undermines the principle of trial by jury.’

Police mugshots released of the ‘Freshwater Five’ after the trial show, from top-left: Daniel Payne, Zoran Dresic, Jonathan Beere, Scott Birtwistle, Jamie Green

Ms Bolton also said the Court of Appeal’s ruling ‘effectively gives law enforcement a licence to perpetuate evidence disclosure failures in future’.

She added: ‘It sends a deeply troubling message that they can withhold crucial information from judges, juries, and defendants and get away with it.

‘We have no doubt that law enforcement holds further evidence which supports the Freshwater Five’s innocence.

‘Yet our opaque, unaccountable justice system continues to prevent the truth from coming to light.

‘To those with short memories, it is worth bearing in mind that it took three appeals before the Birmingham Six finally had their names cleared.

‘The Freshwater Five, their families and the Appeal team will keep battling for justice and reform.’

A statement issued on behalf of the families of the Freshwater Five said: ‘This is a bitter and dark day for the men and their families. Yet again, our faith in the criminal justice system has been shattered.

‘These men are innocent and have collectively spent decades in prison for a crime they did not commit.

‘They have missed births, the deaths of close family members and countless other irreplaceable family moments while our so-called ‘justice’ system has kept them kidnapped behind bars.

‘Today, in ruling against Jon Beere and Danny Payne, the court has once again whitewashed over what has happened in this case, just four days after Jon’s father died, having lost his battle to hold out long enough to see his son vindicated.

The group were said to have collected the drugs from the English Channel in a fishing boat, the Galwad-Y-Mor, in May 2010 

‘At this next funeral we will be mourning the death of Jon’s father, but also the death of British justice.

‘This pitiful judgment is just yet another example of the system protecting itself from embarrassment and criticism.

‘If the Court of Appeal and the Criminal Cases Review Commission won’t correct this mistake, where else do we turn?

‘British justice is broken, and we will never trust it again.’

The Freshwater families’ statement continued: ‘But we have faith that the truth will out.

‘In every round of this case, more and more people have come forward with information about what really happened.

‘We are not the only ones waking up in the night worrying about this case – people involved in the original investigation are having trouble sleeping too.

‘There are whistle-blower protections and those with a conscience will come forward.’

The statement added: ‘We ask for privacy during this difficult time, as we come to terms with this decision.

‘The war is not over, and you haven’t heard the last of us.

‘Once the dust has settled, we will be back fighting for this horrific miscarriage of justice to be overturned and making sure the public knows the full story of not just what happened here, but of the efforts that have been made to cover it up.’

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