Criticism of top judge in ‘King Meggy’ trial fails to convince Court of Appeal that convictions are unsafe.

Few, if any, regular court users would argue with the proposition that His Honour Jonathan Durham Hall QC was one of the most popular, well-respected and, indeed, revered judges to sit on the North East circuit in the last 30 years.

‘JDH’ as he was widely known within the court precincts at Bradford Law Courts retired in July, 2020 after a distinguished career. Latterly as Resident Judge and Honorary Recorder of what he described as “this great city”. He first sat as a part-time judge in 1991 and was from 2010 to 2015, interestingly and relevantly to the thrust of this piece, the Course Director for Long and Complex Trials Training held at The Judicial College.

A genuine ‘man of the people’, who had a knack of making every participant in his court welcome and feel an important part of the proceedings. His own court staff, jurors, witnesses, leading counsel, supporting lawyers, even journalists, were all treated courteously and respectfully. More so, if you enjoyed a bit of ribbing or smiled discreetly at JDH’s mostly self-deprecating witticisms.

Defendants, including ‘the regulars’, were also extended the same courtesies, if not the jokes, and juries were frequently reminded that the burden was on the prosecutor to prove guilt and not for those in the dock to prove their innocence. However grim either they, or the case alleged against them, might outwardly appear.

But inside the velvet glove, that touched as lightly as circumstances would permit when hearing the most serious of Crown Court trials, was an iron fist. No-one took liberties with this judge more than once. They learned the first time that it was not a safe avenue down which to venture.

Just over a year before he retired, Jonathan Durham Hall came face to face with one of the city’s most notorious criminals and one whom many thought was ‘untouchable’. He lived a luxury lifestyle, and had, in partnership with others, amassed considerable assets, without any visible sources of income (read more here). 

In May 2019, he sent down Mohammed Nisar Khan, widely known as ‘Meggy’, or ‘King Meggy’, for life, with a minimum term of 26 years to be served for what the judge described as the “barbaric and determined” murder of Amriz Iqbal, known locally as “The Major” and the father of three children, two of them very young. The court heard that the motive for the attack was “clouded” and nothing public has emerged since the trial to shed any further light on that.

Meggy’s “right hand man”, Tony Grant, another career criminal unoriginally nicknamed ‘Granty’, was handed a 17-year sentence for his part in the hit and run killing, which occurred in the Barkerend area of the city, in October 2018, when The Major was deliberately struck by a Kia Sedona people carrier, driven by Meggy. The court had heard, in evidence, that he sustained an unsurvivable injury when his head struck a roadside tree following impact.

The latter was also found guilty of attempting to murder Mr Iqbal’s friend, Adnan Ahmed, who was crossing the road with him, in the area where they lived, when they were both struck by the car. Adnan survived being thrown in the air by the impact with the vehicle, suffering a dislocated shoulder.

Appeals to the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal

In January, 2021, the Registrar of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division, based at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, ruled that parts of Khan’s appeal against conviction had passed through the initial single justice procedure but his appeal against sentence had been refused by the same senior judge.

Three months earlier, a Court of Appeal judge, sitting alone, had referred Grant’s appeal against conviction and sentence to the full court.

In July 2021, a three judge panel, presided over by Lord Justice Fulford, sat to hear those appeals, alongside an appeal by Salman Ismail who had been convicted of arson and perverting the course of justice offences during the same Crown Court trial at Bradford. 

Judgment was handed down the following month, on 12th August, 2021. It is useful to set out in full the introduction to that written ruling, which, in its totality, extends to 77 mostly dense paragraphs of legal argument. No witness evidence was taken during the one day hearing.

The guilty counts and the grounds of appeal 

On 1st May 2019, at Bradford Crown Court, before Judge Durham Hall QC and a jury,  Tony Grant was convicted of one count of murder (count one) and two counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice (counts four and six). Mohammed Nisar Khan was convicted of murder, attempted murder and two counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice (counts one, two, four and six). Salman Ismail was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice and one count of arson (counts four, five and six).

On the same day, Tony Grant was sentenced to life imprisonment on count one (murder) and the period of 17 years was specified as the minimum term. He was sentenced to terms of 17 years’ imprisonment on count four and six, to be served concurrently with each other and the sentence on count one. Mohammed Khan was sentenced to life imprisonment on count one and the period of 26 years was specified as the minimum term. On count two (attempted murder) he was sentenced to life imprisonment and the period of 7 years was specified as the minimum term, to be served concurrently with the sentence on count one. He was sentenced to terms of 17 years’ imprisonment on counts four and six, to be served concurrently with each other and concurrently with the sentences on counts one and two. Salman Ismail was sentenced to terms of 17 years’ imprisonment on count four, five and six, to be served concurrently.

Before the full Court of Appeal, Mohammed Khan appealed against conviction by leave of the single judge on ground 7(l) of his Grounds of Appeal, namely that the judge was wrong to allow the ex post facto finding of weapons and face masks in Tony Grant’s BMW motor vehicle to be adduced in evidence. He renews his application for leave to appeal on grounds 7(j) and 7(k), respectively, that the judge was wrong to leave count two to the jury following a defence submission of no case to answer and the judge erred in failing to provide any written directions or a ‘route to verdict’ to the jury. As was his right, he renewed his application for leave to appeal against sentence following refusal by the single judge.

Tony Grant appealed against conviction by leave of the single judge, limited to grounds one, two and four. He renewed his application for leave to appeal in respect of ground three. He, additionally, renewed his application for leave to appeal against sentence after refusal by the single judge. The four conviction grounds of appeal are, in summary, that the judge erred in declining to leave as a key issue to the jury that the killing could, or might, be viewed by them as an “overwhelming supervening act” (“OSA”) as defined by R v Jogee [2016] UKPC 7; [2017] AC 387 (ground one); that the judge’s directions to the jury were unfocussed, unspecific and ultimately inadequate on all the key issues relevant to his case (ground two); mirroring Mohammed Khan’s ground 7(k), the judge erred in failing to provide any written directions or a route to verdict to the jury (ground three); and mirroring Mohammed Khan’s ground 7(l), the judge was wrong to allow the ex post facto finding of weapons and face masks in Tony Grant’s BMW motor vehicle to be adduced in evidence (ground four).

Salman Ismail appealed against sentence by leave of the single judge. There was no appeal against conviction.

Summary of the facts

Similarly, and for completeness, it is useful also to repeat, almost verbatim, the appellate judges’ recital of the background facts:

At just after 1.00 pm on 3rd October 2018 in the Barkerend area of Bradford, a silver Kia Sedona with at least five occupants on board, drove into two pedestrians, Amriz Iqbal and Adnan Ahmed. Mr Iqbal, who had returned to the city two days earlier, having spent some time in Dubai, died, whilst Mr Ahmed was, essentially, uninjured. These events were reflected in counts one and two of the indictment.

It was the prosecution’s case that Mohammed Khan was the driver. On his own admission Tony Grant, a long-time associate of Khan’s, was in the front passenger seat.

The incident was captured (albeit at some distance) on CCTV footage which was recovered from a nearby house. This showed Mr Iqbal and Mr Ahmed walking along the left side of the pavement on Sandford Road, Bradford. Prior to the collision, the Kia had been cruising or circling around the nearby area until it was captured on CCTV at the junction of Barkerend Road and Sandford Road. It first travelled past the end of Sandford Road, giving the passenger, Tony Grant, an unimpeded view down the road. The subject vehicle then went past the end of Sandford Road, circled and drove back, now giving the driver a clear view of Mr Iqbal and Mr Ahmed as they walked down Sandford Road. The Kia circled again, returning to the junction and it entered Sandford Road. The vehicle weighed two tons and there were five occupants. Having gone over a speed bump, and whilst Mr Iqbal and Mr Ahmed were crossing Sandford Road, the driver accelerated hard, travelling at an average of 18 miles an hour, but in all likelihood in excess of that speed at the moment of collision. The CCTV provided sound as well as images; screeching tyres and shouts from people in the area could clearly be heard. The driver, seemingly, deliberately swerved into the two men. Mr Iqbal was thrown onto a grass bank between the road and the pavement on the driver’s side, whilst Mr Ahmed landed on the road on the passenger side of the Kia. The car continued forwards approximately 20 yards before braking and reversing back towards the victims at speed.

Three men alighted via the rear passenger door, at least one of whom was carrying a weapon and one of whom was wearing a mask or face covering. Fozia Iqbal, whose evidence was read at trial, recalled:

“The car stopped suddenly and reversed back about 5 yards then a male got out of the rear driver’s side door. He was average height, wearing a light padded jacket with his hood up, he also had some sort of patterned balaclava covering his face. Due to this I could not see the male’s skin colour. I noticed he was carrying what looked like a metal crowbar. I think this was in his right hand. The male walked towards the male who had landed on the grassed area and started to hit him whilst he was motionless on the floor. He was hitting him to his legs and hit him several times”.

Tony Grant appeared from the front passenger side of the vehicle; he hesitated for some five seconds before getting back in the car, as did the other men. The Kia was driven away. The prosecution submitted this was, therefore, a deliberate and fatal “hit and run”.

Mr Iqbal died of injuries, from which survival was never a possibility, when he was thrown during the collision, hitting a hard surface (a tree or the pavement). The pathologist found areas of bruising to his back and lower limbs which could have been caused when he was struck whilst lying on the ground. Mr Ahmed suffered minor injuries.

The Kia, following the incident, travelled to a livery yard in a semi-rural location. It was followed by a BMW 320D (EV11 MOB). It was the prosecution’s case that the BMW belonged to Tony Grant. Not only was it registered in his name but just prior to his arrest on the afternoon of 5 October 2018, Tony Grant had been seen by a police officer getting out of an HGV he had driven on a round trip to Wales on 4 and 5 October 2018 before driving away in the BMW. It bore false registration plates and the true registration of the vehicle was GY14 LJN. There was documentary evidence which linked Grant not only to the BMW but to both registration numbers. At the time of his arrest, moreover, Grant was in possession of the BMW keys which he told police were his.

The BMW emerged from the livery yard shortly after entering, but the Kia has never been seen again.

Tony Grant was arrested on 5th October 2018. The BMW was seized and examined two days later. Following a search of the boot a number of items were recovered including (i) a pair of white gloves with grey rubber grip; (ii) a black and red sledge hammer; (iii) a black “Slogger” baseball bat; (iv) a pair of yellow gloves with green rubber grip; (v) a pair of “biker gloves”; (vi) a skull balaclava/neck tube; (vii) a neoprene skull lower face mask; (viii) a yellow folding knife; (ix) a red folding knife; and (x) the original registration plates for the vehicle namely, GY14 LJN.

It was the prosecution’s case that the BMW had been parked at Mohammed Khan’s home address prior to the fatal incident. Cell site evidence for Tony Grant’s mobile telephone demonstrated that between 8.06 am and 11.46 am on 3rd October 2018 the BMW drove to Mohammed Khan’s address, arriving at 11.46 am. It is suggested that Tony Grant, Mohammed Khan and the other three men then got into the Kia, taking with them at least some of the items which were later found in the BMW. They travelled to the Whitehall Road Petrol Station, Birkenshaw, arriving on the forecourt at 11.57 am (approximately an hour, therefore, before the fatal incident). Tony Grant, as the front seat passenger, filled the vehicle with petrol, whilst Mohammed Khan entered the kiosk and paid. The vehicle left the forecourt at 12.00 noon. Thereafter it cruised or circled around the nearby area prior to the fatal collision, as described above.

Following the incident, the Kia was driven back to Mohammed Khan’s home address, whereupon Tony Grant transferred back into his own BMW which he then drove, following the Kia, into the livery yard.

The Kia was identified as being registered to Platinum Cars at 58 Devonshire Street, Keighley and it was insured by a Nadeem Khan (originally a defendant in these proceedings) between January 2018 and 3rd October 2018. Mohammed Khan had links with Platinum cars. Nadeem Khan removed the vehicle from his trader’s insurance policy at 1.42 pm on 3 October 2018, some 40 minutes after the fatal attack. We note in passing that the actions in relation to the insurance policy were reflected in count three (conspiracy to pervert the course of justice). The judge upheld a submission of no case to answer on this count against all the defendants, and Nadeem Khan was discharged.

At 11.00 pm on 3 October 2018 attempts were made to set fire to the Whitehall Road Petrol Station with the intention, said the prosecution, of destroying the CCTV footage which had captured the fuel stop earlier in the day by Mohammed Khan and Tony Grant. This was reflected in count four, an offence of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. It was alleged that Mohammed Khan and Tony Grant had been in telephone contact with Salman Ismail to arrange the arson. The point of attack was a window at the rear of the shop behind the counter. External cameras showed two people approach the premises, a window was smashed and liquid was squirted through it and onto the counter. The liquid was ignited, albeit almost no damage resulted. The fire quickly went out. Salman Ismail alone faced the count of arson (count five).

Witnesses in the Golden Fleece public house, opposite the petrol station, saw two men acting suspiciously on the Station forecourt. Some of the witnesses went outside as the arson attack took place. They gave chase (an event which was partly captured on the CCTV footage) and saw the two men disappearing into Oakwood Avenue (a nearby cul-de-sac). As the witnesses approached Oakwood Avenue a Skoda Octavia, with its lights off, drove quickly away towards Birkenshaw Roundabout. A witness made a mental note of the vehicle registration and quickly passed it to the police 999 operator. The registration was HN09 OKO, described by him as a Silver Skoda Estate, a vehicle linked to Salman Ismail.

The following day at 1.16 pm there was an attempted robbery at the petrol station with the intention, said the prosecution, of obtaining the CCTV (count six, involving Mohammed Khan, Tony Grant and Salman Ismail). This coincided with telephone contact between the three defendants. Two individuals approached the Petrol Station on a stolen scooter. They looked through the window and rode away before returning two minutes later, having waited for a customer to leave. They then entered the shop and made demands for the CCTV system. Both suspects were wearing gloves and face coverings. One was carrying a metal bar, which was used to threaten a member of staff, Ilyas Umarji. The service counter was hit with the bar. The demands were resisted and Mr Umarji, using an upturned stool, chased the offenders from the petrol station. A customer assisted him outside. The offenders made off on foot towards the centre of Birkenshaw. The scooter was left at the scene. No relevant forensic evidence was obtained.

The defendants were subsequently arrested. Mohammed Khan and Tony Grant each answered “no comment” to all questions in interview. In Mohammed Khan’s case a prepared statement was given to the police, as follows:

“I, Mohammed Nisar Khan, make this prepared statement in relation to the disclosure provided to my Solicitor by DC Wasti and DC Smith on the 17th of October 2018. Number one, I deny the allegation of murder in relation to the deceased namely Amriz Iqbal, two, I deny the allegation of attempted murder against the injured party, namely Adnan Ahmed and finally I deny being involved in the alleged offence dated the 3rd of October 2018. […]”.

In his defence case statement Mohammed Khan denied having been in the Kia at the time of the collision and said that he had left the vehicle following the visit to the Whitehall Road Petrol Station. He learnt of the incident but did not attempt to destroy evidence from the service station or to cancel the insurance. In his defence case statement Tony Grant indicated he had been a passenger in the Kia. He said he did not know either of the victims and that he was entirely uninvolved in what occurred. The collision took him completely by surprise. Both men did not give evidence and their individual defences reflected the assertions just set out.

The police obtained authority to record covertly visits to both Mohammed Khan and Tony Grant whilst they were held on remand. It is unnecessary to review the somewhat uncertain or ambiguous detail of what was said.

Disposal of the grounds of appeal against conviction by Grant and Khan

(i) Grant – the judge erred in declining to leave as a key issue to the jury that the killing could or might be viewed by them as an “overwhelming supervening act” (OSA).

The judgment on this ground extended to sixteen paragraphs of complex legal argument, which are not rehearsed here. It was agreed at trial, following submissions heard without the jury present, that there was a case to answer on count one against Tony Grant and Mohammed Khan, on the basis that they were jointly responsible for causing the death of Mr Iqbal, having intended to cause him really serious bodily harm. On the issue of whether the judge should have directed the jury as to OSA, in essence, Timothy Raggatt QC, for Grant, submitted to the judge that the decision of the driver of the Kia pre-emptively to run down the victims, instead of waiting to attack one or both of them on foot, in a face-to-face confrontation, amounted to a departure from the agreed plan such as to constitute an overwhelming supervening act. It was further suggested to the judge at trial that the issue was essentially one of causation, in the sense that it was open to the jury to conclude that the joint plan as agreed was not the cause of death because another event overtook it.

In turn, the judge [HHJ Durham Hall} considered that Mohammed Khan’s use of the Kia as a weapon to attack the two victims was evidence of a sudden escalation in the violence, in that he seized the opportunity, as a “turn up for the books“, to drive into the two men. In his judgment, he found that it could not, sustainably, be treated as something that consigned the agreement to cause really serious harm to history, in that it provided a break in the history of the relevant events.

In support of this ground of appeal, Mr Raggatt maintained the submissions he advanced to the trial judge. He emphasised that it had not been suggested at trial that there was a basis for suggesting that Tony Grant had intended to kill. Instead, as just set out, the appellant accepted there was a case fit for the jury to consider that he had intended the infliction of really serious harm, albeit he denied this had been his intention. It was emphasised in this context that the judge allowed a submission of no case to answer, in Grant’s case, for count two on the basis that there was insufficient evidence that he had an intention to kill, as opposed to an intention to inflict really serious harm. It was, accordingly, on this basis that he was tried on count one. Mr Raggatt characterised the events in Sandford Road as being “sudden and highly specific“.

Put broadly, it is suggested, on behalf of Tony Grant, that no one could have anticipated what Mohammed Khan decided to do, which was fundamentally different from anything Grant would have foreseen, which consigned the original plan [to apply a punishment or warning beating to Mr Iqbal] to history.

In reaching their conclusions, the appellate bench addressed the facts of the present appeal and the presence of three distinct and important elements within them. First, Mohammed Khan, as the perpetrator, had a different intent from that alleged against Tony Grant, given the verdict against the former on count two demonstrated an intention on his part to kill. Second, the act changed, in that this was a hit and run as opposed to a face-to-face confrontation on the street. Third, the weapon used was different from anything that would have been used in a street confrontation. Do these factors mean that there had been a fundamental departure which nobody in the position of Tony Grant could have contemplated might happen, and which was of such a character as to relegate Tony Grant’s encouragement “to history?

They answered their own question in this way: ‘On a charge of murder, if the accessory intentionally assisted or encouraged the perpetrator, and intended that the perpetrator should cause grievous bodily harm with intent, then he, or she, will have satisfied the elements of the offence of murder. The precise manner in which the victim happens to be killed, and whether the perpetrator intended to kill as opposed to inflict really serious harm, are by the way; so long as the encouragement or assistance of the accessory has not been “relegated to history” as set out above. Save, perhaps, for exceptional circumstances, which are not readily easy to envisage, there will be no need to direct the jury on the concept of OSA simply because the fatal injuries were inflicted using an entirely different kind of weapon or method of killing than that originally contemplated and/or the perpetrator intended to kill rather than to inflict really serious harm’.

The court, accordingly, rejected this ground of appeal saying: ‘We are unpersuaded that the judge erred in not giving an OSA direction’.

It was stressed, however, that this conclusion of the appeal court, and the explanation for it, are not intended to undermine the need, in the right case, to direct the jury in accordance with the concluding part of paragraph 12 of Jogee (below) whenever there is a sustainable basis for contending that the encouragement, or assistance, previously provided by the accessory [person assisting or encouraging the crime] had lost material connection with what occurred:

“Conversely, there may be cases where anything said or done by (the accessory) has faded to the point of mere background, or has been spent of all possible force by some overwhelming intervening occurrence by the time the offence was committed. Ultimately it is a question of fact and degree whether (the accessory’s) conduct was so distanced in time, place or circumstances from the conduct of (the perpetrator) that it would not be realistic to regard (the perpetrator’s) offence as encouraged or assisted by it.”

(ii) Grant – the judge’s directions to the jury vis-à-vis the appellant’s case were unfocussed, unspecific and ultimately inadequate on all the key issues relevant to his case.

Even though this ground came before the court with the leave of the single judge, it was not pursued by Mr Raggatt either with any enthusiasm, or in any detail. When asked by the presiding judge if he was able to develop submissions, demonstrating that any of the individual directions in law were in error, he accepted that although the summing up did not follow a conventional structure, on every issue the jury were directed with sufficient accuracy. The bench also noted that Robert Ward, counsel for Mohammed Khan, made a similar concession.

The judgment sets out that, although the summing up would have benefited from less of an ex tempore [or off the cuff] approach, we agree with the respondent that the directions in law nonetheless captured the essence of each of topics that the judge was required to address. In those circumstances this ground of appeal is unarguable.

(iii) Grant and Khan – the judge erred in failing to provide any written directions or a route to verdict to the jury.

For both appellants this was a renewed ground of appeal having been refused leave by the single judge. It fared similarly in the full appeal hearing: ‘The short answer to the complaint that the verdicts are unsafe because the judge decided not to provide written directions is that, although it is now expected that judges will provide the directions in law or, at the very least, a route to verdict in all but the simplest of cases, the failure to do so does not render the verdict(s) unsafe as a complaint standing on its own. There would need to be some additional feature of sufficient seriousness to lead to that result. Given there is no complaint as to the sufficiency or accuracy of the several oral directions in law, this ground of appeal fails and we refuse to grant leave to appeal.’

The court did not hear how or why no route to verdict was provided in this particular case although they did note the pressure on judges in busy court centres. 

(iv) Khan – the judge was wrong to leave count 2 to the jury following a defence submission of no case to answer.

This was a renewed application for leave to appeal by Khan, having been refused by the single judge. The submission of no case to answer he advanced at trial on count two – the charge of the attempted murder of Mr Ahmed – was that the use of the car as a weapon was essentially opportunistic, arising suddenly when the perpetrators came across Mr Iqbal and Mr Ahmed crossing the road in front of the Kia. The Crown’s case was that Mr Iqbal was the target of this attack and that the occupants of the vehicle had been driving around seeking him out with intent to attack him with weapons, such as baseball bats and metal bars. The underlying intent of those involved was that of causing really serious bodily harm rather than an intent to kill. The judge, relevantly, upheld a submission of no case to answer on count two by Tony Grant on the basis that a last-minute formulation of intent to kill could not be attributed to him, given he was not driving the car.

Against that background, it was submitted, on behalf of Khan, that there was insufficient evidence upon which an inference of intention to kill on his part could properly be drawn and count two should not have been left to the jury. It was observed that Mr Ahmed suffered, as described by the judge in his ruling “relatively modest injuries consistent with a relatively low bumper collision, between his body and the Kia Sedona.” No subsequent violence was alleged to have been used against him (in contrast to Mr Iqbal who it is suggested was struck on his legs whilst lying injured on the roadside).The average speed of the Kia in the period immediately prior to the point of impact with the pedestrians was, as set out above, 18 mph – and the agreed evidential position was that impact with a pedestrian, even struck by a heavy car such as a Kia Sedona, would not normally cause serious injury, let alone a fatality. Mr Iqbal died because his head hit a hard surface. The incident occurred very quickly, within a few seconds. It was submitted that merely deliberately driving the car at the victim at the speed, with no material injuries being inflicted to Mr Ahmed, does not, therefore, provide sufficient evidence of an intent to kill.

The judge’s summing up on count one was:

“In this case the Crown’s case for you to consider is whether Mr Khan or Mr Grant intended when death was caused […] intended to cause Mr Iqbal some really serious bodily harm.”

Addressing count two, he said:

“[…] for Mr Khan to be guilty on Count 2 the prosecution must prove if he was the driver […] that he in deliberately driving into Mr Ahmed intended to kill him. Any lesser intention will not do; an intent to cause really serious harm will not suffice for attempted murder.”

A two-ton vehicle with five men inside was driven over a speed bump and it dipped as heavy acceleration was deliberately applied by the driver, who changed course and steered the car towards the two victims. The vehicle was in all likelihood increasing its speed throughout this manoeuvre. There is no minimum time limit necessary for forming the intention to commit a criminal offence; indeed, the decision can be made on the spur of the moment, contemporaneously with the conduct element of the offence. It was wholly open to the judge to determine that the jury could decide that, when suddenly confronted with the two men, the driver of the motorcar decided to use the car as a weapon, intending to kill the victim by hitting him with a heavy vehicle rather than inflicting grievous bodily harm during a street encounter. It was logical for the judge to uphold the submission on count two on behalf of Tony Grant (as the front seat passenger), given there was no evidence that he shared, in the few relevant seconds, the particular mens rea [criminal intent] which is necessary for the crime of attempted murder. There is no inconsistency such as to render the verdict on count two unsafe between the “lesser” mens rea summed up by the judge as regards count one and the “greater” mens rea summed up for count two.

The summing up, the appeal court said, could have benefited from a greater explanation by the judge as regards the difference in approach to the two counts, but this lack of judicial assistance does not undermine the safety of the conviction on count two, given the judge clearly explained the level of intention that needed to be established in order for the jury to convict.

The appeal court declined to give leave on this renewed ground of appeal.

(v) Grant and Khan – the judge was wrong to allow the ex post facto finding of weapons and face masks in Tony Grant’s BMW motor vehicle to be adduced in evidence. 

On behalf of Tony Grant, an application was made to the trial judge to exclude the evidence of certain items seized from his BMW. The police found two face coverings: A black fabric face/neck covering with a white skull jaw design and a black face mask made from a neoprene-type material with a white skull jaw design). They were hidden from immediate view in a compartment in the BMW. Saliva detected on the inside of both those masks was only attributable to Tony Grant. They also found a sledgehammer and a baseball bat. The judge admitted the masks and the baseball bat into evidence to be considered by the jury, on the basis that their probative value outweighed their prejudicial effect. He [HHJ Durham Hall] observed that they were available to the occupants of the Kia. The ruling is ambiguous as to whether this evidence, in the view of the trial judge, related only to Tony Grant or whether it was also germane to the case of Mohammed Khan.

Peter Moulson QC submitted to the jury at Bradford, on behalf of the Crown, that there was evidence of a predetermined plan by Tony Grant, Mohammed Khan and others (the members of a “team“) to kill or to cause really serious harm. Examples of the teamwork of those involved were said to include the baseball bat and face coverings recovered from the BMW; the rendezvous between Mohammed Khan and Tony Grant; the collection of the other three men; the fact that at least one of the three men who got out from the back of the Kia at the scene had a face covering; the “predatory” movements of the Kia; the obvious searching until the victims were spotted; the beating of Mr Iqbal with a heavy object, even though he was dead or dying; the immediate disposal of the Kia after the incident, having travelled in convoy with the BMW to the livery yard; the determined attempts to avoid detection; and the admitted deleting of phone messages between Mohammed Khan and Tony Grant.

The trial judge directed the jury that these items were potentially “to hand” for use by those involved in the violence that was intended and they were relevant to the issue of whether the occupants of the Kia were simply having a day out. Therefore, they went to the question of the intention of those in the Kia, and whether the occupants were seeking out Mr Iqbal in order to cause him harm. The judge stressed that the BMW was, arguably, closely involved in what occurred.

 As already observed, no submission on behalf of either Grant or Khan was advanced as regards the judge’s direction. Instead, the point taken is that of admissibility. It was submitted to the judge and repeated on this appeal that there was no basis for concluding that the items found in the BMW had been in the Kia at the material time, and it is suggested that they were, consequently, irrelevant. Put otherwise, it is argued the prosecution case in this context is based on an entirely speculative assertion that the items had been transferred by Tony Grant to the Kia, as part of a premeditated plan shared by the other occupants, and then, after the incident, removed from the Kia and placed back into the BMW, possibly without ever having been used. In those circumstances, it is argued there was simply no proper basis to admit this evidence and, in consequence, the convictions are unsafe.

It was the view of the appellate bench, having considered both sides of the arguments, that there was a clear inference available for the jury to draw that Tony Grant drove to Mohammed Khan’s house in the BMW which contained items that would be of clear use in a street attack, on one or both of the victims. One of the men who alighted from the Kia was armed with an object which “looked like” a metal crowbar. He used it to attack Mr Iqbal who was dead or dying. One of the men who got out of the Kia was wearing a mask/face covering. Given the nature of the items that had been used during the attack, there was a sustainable basis, therefore, for suggesting that Tony Grant had brought items of disguise (masks/face covering) and a weapon (a baseball bat), to the gathering of the men in order for those objects to be “at hand” for use if the need arose. If the jury were satisfied of that contention, it was potentially of considerable relevance to the issue of the intention of those in the Kia. In any event, these items formed part of the immediate background to the incident, in the sense that they potentially illuminated the preparations that had been put in place for the assault on Mr Iqbal, given that a mask and a heavy, long object were used during the assault. Therefore, the evidence of the discovery of the masks and the baseball bat was, the appeal court judges ruled, admissible in this trial.

Conclusion on the conviction appeals/renewed applications for leave to appeal

It follows, said the appeal court judges, that the renewed applications for leave to appeal against conviction, and the conviction appeals on behalf of Mohammed Khan and Tony Grant, all fail in their entirety. The applications were, therefore, refused and the appeals dismissed.

Sentencing appeals

The appeal court heard appeals from all three convicted men. They form part of a separate article on this website (read here). Briefly, permission for Mohammed Khan to appeal against his sentence was refused. Tony Grant was granted permission to appeal and his sentence on counts four and six reduced to 14 years (to be served concurrently with one another and concurrently with the life sentence). Salman Ismail’s appeal against sentence was allowed and his sentences on counts four, five and six reduced to 11 years’ imprisonment, to be served concurrently.

Comment

Few will argue that the man known as King Meggy is presently in the right place, in a high security prison, and the public of Bradford, and the rest of West Yorkshire, can feel safer as a result. A dangerous man, with whom, violence or killing, was too frequently associated. As a close associate of Meggy, and willing accomplice, the same may well be said about Tony Grant. The latter also has previous convictions for burglary and large scale drug handling. In 2017, Grant was cleared at Chester Crown Court on two charges of attempted murder and one of using a firearm to endanger the life of others. 

But, though it pains to say, viewed through the lens of this investigative journalist/court reporter there are some concerning aspects of the Court of Appeal rulings. That HHJ Durham Hall was not at his best in this particular pressure-cooker trial, dealing with the city’s, and indeed the wider county’s, most notorious criminal, is obvious from the more senior judges’ findings, but can be disposed of summarily: Form is temporary, class is permanent.

But, for the appellate bench, their judgment gives the appearance of over-reach in working around the trial judge’s departure from what might be considered as standard practice, procedural rules and/or guidance – and, of course, in their own words, the ‘manifestly excessive’ sentencing of two of the three convicted men. Regular critics in the miscarriage of justice community, and some within the Criminal Bar say, by perception at least, that the shielding of the lower courts from criticism is an uncomfortably regular occurrence in the Court of Appeal Criminal Division. 

The reasoning behind both the no case to answer on the attempted murder charge, submitted on behalf of Khan, and the admissibility of the materials found in Grant’s car does not look unbreakable. What we do not, and never will, know, is what impact, if any, their presence as exhibits in the courtroom, had on the jury. Probably, very little. There was no evidence that they were ever transferred to, or from, Grant’s BMW to Khan’s Kia – and both the mask and weapon used by Mr Iqbal’s attacker, as he lay dying on the ground, were, seemingly, different to the ones described by eye witnesses.

As for the intention (mens rea) to kill Adnan Ahmed using the Kia Sedona, probably not in this case. It represented a quantum leap from what, to all intents and purposes, looked like an outing to deliver a punishment, or warning, beating. Tupping with a motor car, as opposed to the use of iron bars, baseball bats, or a kneecapping with a firearm, to keep underworld recalcitrants or drug debtors in line, has become more commonplace in Bradford over the past few years. 

In the end, the outcome is the same for Meggy. With, or without, the attempted murder conviction, he will still spend 26 years in jail before he is considered for parole. The sentences of Grant and Ismail, however, now have a more proportionate look to them, taking the ringleader (and car driver’s) sentence as a benchmark – and full credit to Lord Justice Fulford and his two wingers for that.

Page last updated: Tuesday 7th September, 2021 at 1050 hours

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Picture credit:  Telegraph and Argus

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

One thought on “Criticism of top judge in ‘King Meggy’ trial fails to convince Court of Appeal that convictions are unsafe.

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