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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Emily Pennink

Winking witness known as Del Boy jailed over ‘cynical’ jury nobbling plot

PA Media

A winking witness nicknamed Del Boy has been jailed for a “cynical” plot to nobble a jury in the trial of a drugs kingpin.

Laurence Hayden, 54, had skipped bail and fled to Spain to evade justice after a bungled scheme to sway jurors in the trial of Leslie Allen at Warwick Crown Court in 2018 failed “spectacularly”.

But he was convicted in his absence of conspiring to pervert the course of justice, extradited back to the UK and jailed for three years and eight months.

Sentencing him on Friday at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Cavanagh said it was “a complex, carefully planned and very cynical conspiracy” which “struck at the very heart of the criminal process”.

The case centred on the trial of drugs kingpin and boxing promoter Leslie Allen for having £150,000 of cannabis and cocaine and a pepper spray.

His “second-in-command” Hayden, from Coventry, set about securing his acquittal by lying in the witness box about a text message to Allen referring to “white cakes”.

He told jurors “white cake” was not a reference to compressed cocaine but to “energy bars” or “protein shakes”.

Mr Justice Cavanagh told Hayden he was “somewhat cocky and over-confident” in the witness box and was spotted by several jurors giving a nod or wink to corrupt juror Damien Drackley who was in on the plot.

Hayden also acted as a conduit between Allen and Drackley’s mother Lorraine Frisby and arranged for another witness, Daniel Porter, to give false evidence.

Mr Porter, from Birmingham, who died before he could stand trial, had only recently been released from prison and was offered a bribe  to falsely confess to having the drugs, the court was told.

The conspiracy failed after other jurors in the Warwick Crown Court case became suspicious of Drackley as they deliberated on verdicts.

The judge in the drugs trial went on to convict Allen without the jury and jail him for 13 years for the drugs offences.

After a separate trial at the Old Bailey, Hayden was found guilty of the plot to pervert the course of justice with Allen, 66, from Coventry, Drackley, 37, from Nuneaton, and Mark Walker, 57.

Drackley’s mother Frisby, 56, from Birmingham, had admitted her part in the offence.

Previously, Allen was jailed for five years, Drackley for four years, Frisby for two years and three months, and Walker for nine months.

Sentencing Hayden on Friday, Mr Justice Cavanagh told him: “You were a major player at the heart of this conspiracy.

“You were not the head of it, but you were in effect Leslie Allen’s second-in-command.

“You gave false evidence which, unlike Daniel Porter, was potentially credible and so might have had an impact on the jury.

“You also worked with Leslie Allen to persuade Daniel Porter to give false evidence which might have resulted in Leslie Allen’s acquittal and in Daniel Porter serving a lengthy prison sentence for offences he had not committed.

“Then you worked assiduously as a go-between in the second strand of the conspiracy.

“It is not clear to me whether you did all of this in return for payment from Leslie Allen or out of a misplaced sense of loyalty to him but it does not matter which: you demonstrated a complete disregard for the rule of law and the integrity of the criminal process and you did so willingly and voluntarily.”

The judge said that while the plan was “inept in many ways” and some of the plotters were “grossly incompetent”, Hayden was not “save for your idiotic decision to jeopardise the conspiracy by nodding or winking at the jury”.

The court was told Hayden had 16 previous convictions for 21 offences including for intimidating a witness in 2016 by “threatening to smash up” a complainant in a case involving his then-partner’s son.

The judge said Hayden had shown “no real remorse” by travelling to Spain in breach of his bail but accepted he was suffering from stress and depression.

In mitigation, Greg Krieger said Hayden was sorry for not attending his trial but had not wanted to leave Spain as he had begun a new relationship there.

He told the court he had was supported by his children and had worked hard throughout his life buying and selling expensive watches.

Hayden nodded and thanked the judge as he was sent down from the dock.

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