Rough justice for Richard Gee

The failure to prosecute Judge Gee has caused an uproar. For the first time his lawyer, Louise Delahunty, responds. Louise Delahunty is a partner at Peters & Peters.

On 7 October the Central Criminal Court was informed of the Attorney General’s decision to enter a nolle prosequi in the case of Judge Richard Gee.

There has been wide press coverage of the decision, some of it accurate, but most of it vitriolic and often misleading.

I have represented Gee since his arrest in November 1995, when he was accused of mortgage fraud to the sum of £1m. I advised him during the investigation which followed and prepared his defence for trial, which took place between March and July 1998.

During the investigation my client co-operated in lengthy police interviews and at trial he gave evidence for five days.

Although some press critics have failed to mention that a trial actually took place, the hearing and the lengthy jury deliberation which followed constituted only part of the history of the events of the last three years.

This history, when accurately reported, refutes the inference in some press reports that Gee was treated differently because of his status as a judge.

On 7 October leading counsel for the Crown, Joanna Korner, gave a clear summary of the facts leading to the Attorney General’s decision.

The first of these was that the investigation which ultimately led to charges being laid against Gee started in 1991. In November 1995 he was arrested and bailed.

Following interviews with the police he was eventually charged in June 1996 and the case was transferred to the Central Criminal Court in January 1997.

The trial was postponed following representations from the defence about his state of health. Psychiatric evidence was given by Professor John Gunn that he was suffering from “a moderately severe depressive illness”. This diagnosis was confirmed by Dr Phillip Joseph for the Crown.

The trial eventually began in March 1998 and took four months. After 13 days the jury reached a stalemate, unable to reach a verdict.

Korner then said that because of Gee’s status the Crown would give detailed reasons for the Attorney General’s decision in open court.

The first of these was that this was an old and stale case concerning events which started 18 years ago and concluded 10 years ago.

Secondly, any second trial could not begin for some months and the lenders’ loss was limited to the difference between the commercial and residential interest rate.

The prosecution could find no personal benefit derived by Gee from the fraud.

There had been a lengthy time between arrest and trial and a 13-day jury retirement was almost unheard of in a trial of one defendant.

Finally, the medical history of my client was explained at length and extracts from the reports of prosecution and defence psychiatric experts were read to the court. These reports confirmed the disintegration of Gee’s health and the serious risk of continuing the proceedings.

The misleading reporting of this case has given rise to a protest by the Crown’s psychiatrist, Dr Joseph.

In his letter to the Evening Standard (16 October 1998) Dr Joseph wrote: “I felt he [Richard Gee] could not cope with another trial. It was precisely because of continued media references to the case of Ernest Saunders that the prosecution was wary of not proceeding to a retrial and treated Richard Gee more severely than it would have if he had not been a judge.”

Gee faced proceedings which stretched over three years following an investigation which originally commenced seven years before his trial. He experienced – and is still suffering from – severe health problems. Under the circumstances Attorney General thought it right to enter a nolle prosequi.

Inaccurate press coverage of this decision must not detract from the Attorney General’s power to make such a decision in all suitable cases.

Newspaper justice?

“Since his arrest in November 1995, Judge Gee, who has pleaded not guilty, has continued to bank his £86,801 salary and is now seeking the return of his £70,000 contribution to his defence costs.” – The Independent on Sunday

“It seems that judges – the very men to whom the law should be sacrosanct – are not subject to the same laws as the hoi polloi.” – Sunday Mirror

“There are aspects of this case which give cause for concern. Like being granted legal aid despite [having] two off-shore bank accounts, a wealthy American wife, homes in London, America and Portugal.” – The People

“Attorney General John Morris told MPs the decision to abandon proceedings against Richard Gee, 56, had been reached fairly on the basis of medical evidence.” – The Sun.