· Confusion over role of member of defence team
· Five men acquitted as case against them disintegrates
This article appeared in the Guardian on Tuesday April 08 2008 on p11 of the UK news section. It was last updated at 00:01 on April 08 2008.
A £100,000 cannabis-dealing trial, launched following a high-profile police raid on a Rastafarian temple in south London, has collapsed in legal confusion.
The case against five men arrested last year when 250 officers burst into the building in Kennington disintegrated after it emerged that one of the defence legal team had allegedly been among complainants to police about drug sales there.
The case had been running for four weeks at the Inner London crown court before police sergeant Alf Sacre recognised the paralegal, Penny Wadsworth, from earlier inquiries and tracked down a document describing her telephone call about alleged drug dealing at the temple.
All five defendants - Fitzroy Pommell, 49, Jahlaw Selassie, 41, Roderick Green, 46, Everton Green, 40, and Hederal Scott, 51 - were acquitted by order of Judge Lindsay Burn. Prosecutors decided not to offer any evidence and announced that a retrial would not be in the public interest.
Wadsworth, who had worked for the City solicitors Howard Brown and Co for 20 years, was called to appear before the judge last Friday. The judge said that although the result was "catastrophic" for the trial he would be taking no further action against her.
"The information contained in [Wadsworth's complaint] ... wasn't disclosed to the firm at which she works and wasn't disclosed to counsel," Judge Burn told the court. He said the information was passed to Pommell's counsel, who then told Pommell.
"In my judgment, understandably, he felt he could no longer have complete confidence in the neutrality of his firm of solicitors," the judge said.
The defendants, all sporting bright red, gold and green Rastafarian hats, gave each other high-fives as they left the dock.
Pommell and Selassie, whose last recorded addresses were at the Rastafarian temple in St Agnes Place, Kennington, Roderick Green, of Watford, Hertfordshire, Everton Green, of Kingsbury, north-west London, and Scott, of Brixton, south London, had each denied conspiracy to supply cannabis between February 6 and April 12 last year.
Danielle Cooper, Wadsworth's barrister, denied her client had made a formal report to police and claimed the police intelligence document was riddled with errors.
The four buildings in St Agnes Place had been used as a Rastafarian temple since the 1970s, despite the council considering it an illegal squat. The Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley once visited.
During the raid in the early hours of April 12 last year officers used stun grenades. Police said they found drugs and live ammunition.
Lambeth council yesterday confirmed the buildings had been demolished. The council is proposing an "affordable, new-build development" on the site.