EncroChat man on murder conspiracy charges pleads for fair trial amid claims of disclosure delays

AN EncroChat defendant facing charges of three murder plots, conspiracy to supply drugs and blackmail pleaded with a judge to allow him a fair trial after losing another legal team.

Manchester Crown Court heard yesterday the trial of Edward Jarvis, 56, and Michael Earle, 45, is facing delays due to legal, disclosure and health issues.

The pair are charged with three conspiracy to murder charges, conspiracy to supply cocaine between March 1 and June 17 2020 and a separate blackmail charge.

Jarvis is also charged with conspiracy to supply heroin to others between the same dates.

Yesterday, at Manchester Crown Court, he denied this charge.

Both men also denied a charge of blackmail which alleged that between May 22 and June 17 2020 they conspired with others to make unwarranted demands with menaces.

They had earlier denied the cocaine conspiracy charge and three separate charges that between May 22 and June 17 2020 they conspired together and with others to murder Michael Eves, Brian Maxwell and Iyobosa Igbinovia.

But, the court heard the case, which began life when they were arrested in June 2020, has been besieged by delays caused by coronavirus, other medical problems and legal issues.

The pair were arrested as part of international investigations into the encrypted EncroChat mobile phone system.

The EncroChat investigation happened after Dutch and French law enforcement managed to hack into the supposedly secure communication system in April 2020.

They allowed access to British police forces to historic and live messaging being sent on the devices used by around 9,000 people in the UK.

This triggered scores of police raids across the country with more than 1,500 arrests so far and hundreds of people charged.

However, many cases have been held up as there have been a number of legal challenges around admissibility of the evidence as live interception of phone calls in the UK is not usually admissible.

Yesterday, Jarvis made an emotive speech to Judge Mr Justice Ian Dove (above) that he should have a "fair trial", after parting company with his second legal team.

Given permission by Judge Dove to address him from prison, where he has spent 18 months on remand, via remote link, he said: "I would like to detail my experiences over the last 18 months with my legal team through no fault of my own."

He said his first legal team had told him the only evidence in his case was EncroChat messages and there were no further disclosures.

He also said he was promised his lawyers would only miss one or two days of court hearings during the case, but two of them had missed a full week and left him with "no counsel" in court for two whole days, before he chose to part company with them.

He was then represented by barristers Michael Bromley-Martin QC and Joanne Cecil, who had since obtained him the disclosure of 2,000 documents of unused material from the CPS.

Jarvis said they had secured him an expert witness on EncroChat messages, but it was going to take him until April to prepare a report after a further 700 pages of evidence were served on him by the prosecution just over a week ago.

But, Jarvis' speech came after Mr Bromley-Martin and Miss Cecil told the court they would no longer act for him, after they faced criticism from Judge Dove about their preparedness for the case.

Judge Dove said: "Nothing I have heard was a sound basis for withdrawal...

"If I withdrew from every case where I was criticised by the court, it would have been a difficult way to practice."

Jarvis said Mr Bromley-Martin and Miss Cecil had been brilliant in securing him the disclosures and expert witness, and he was now floundering trying to secure new legal representation from his prison cell with the aid of his girlfriend on the outside.

He asked Judge Dove for an adjournment to secure legal representation and for the report to be prepared.

He said: "The prosecution served 700 pages of evidence a little over a week ago and (my expert witness) will not have the report ready until April next year... I now find, through no fault of my own, I have no legal team and all I want is a fair trial and look to you (Judge Dove) to make that happen.

"These are serious offences and I am facing a life sentence so all I ask is to be fairly represented to fight this case."

Representing Earle, Matthew Ryder QC, said any new legal team for Jarvis would "need considerable time to get on top of the brief" as there were now "about 10,000 pages of evidence"

Mr Ryder revealed his legal team was facing its own problems after solicitor Daniel Kenyon became ill then tested positive for coronavirus the night before and now he and fellow barrister Simon McKay would have to be tested.

The day before the court heard of earlier delays caused by Jarvis needing "regular bathroom visits" followed by full strip clothes changes, due to him being a class A prisoner, after he suffered a bout of Gastroenteritis, but a doctor had judged him fit to stand trial.

Judge Dove said he was not prepared to allow any lengthy delays to the trial continuing.

He said: "This trial has been on foot for over a year and I am not going to adjourn it into the either. We need a way forward and I want to know where we are headed, it is also in your client's interest that we have a plan."

He adjourned the case until Monday to allow Jarvis time to try to secure legal representation.