Two members of Freshwater Five lose appeal against drugs convictions | UK news

Two members of the Freshwater Five convicted more than a decade ago of attempting to smuggle £53m of cocaine into the UK have lost an appeal against their convictions.

Jonathan Beere, 51, and Daniel Payne, 46, who were jailed for 24 and 18 years respectively for conspiracy to import 250kg of cocaine, had presented new evidence to the court said to show it was “simply impossible” for the men to have collected the drugs.

But in a judgment handed down on Thursday, three appeal court judges ruled that the men’s appeal failed on all grounds. The judgment concluded: “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 CCRC [Criminal Cases Review Commission] concluded a ‘compelling prosecution case of conspiracy to import cocaine’.

“The grounds of appeal do not begin individually or collectively to cast doubt on the safety of these applicants’ convictions. The applications for leave to appeal conviction are accordingly refused, as are the applications for an extension of time and to adduce fresh evidence.”

At the original trial prosecution, lawyers argued that Payne – along with skipper Jamie Green, Zoran Dresic, and Scott Birtwistle – collected the drugs out of the Channel in a fishing boat, the Galwad-Y-Mor, before tying the bags together and leaving them in the water by Freshwater Bay, off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

Beere, a scaffolding business owner, was found to have acted as a liaison between Green and the drug importers behind the smuggling.

Green was sentenced to 24 years, Dresic was sentenced to 24 years, and Birtwistle received a 14-year sentence.

All have maintained their innocence in the years since the conviction, with their battle to have the convictions overturned covered in a Guardian five-part podcast miniseries.

In 2011, Kingston crown court heard the Galwad-Y-Mor crossed the path of the Oriane, a container ship sailing from Brazil, and slowed down to collect the cocaine in the middle of the night in May 2010. The jury was told that the next day the group had tied 11 holdalls containing the cocaine together using rope, and had deposited them in Freshwater Bay attached to a buoy before returning to land.

But at the appeal hearing in February, lawyers for Beere and Payne argued that new radar evidence showed that the Galwad-Y-Mor never crossed behind the Oriane and rendered their convictions unsafe. The original hearing heard evidence about the positioning of the vessels from a different source.

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