Beach cocaine robber’s conviction upheld by appeals court

The Court of Appeal has upheld the conviction of a machete-wielding robber, who stole several packages of cocaine which washed ashore at an East End resort.

Marvin Gregory Grant was convicted of a single count of robbery by a jury following a four-week trial over his daring December 2015 daylight robbery. He was imprisoned for five years in May last year, and earlier this month he appealed that conviction.

Court of Appeal judges issued their ruling on the case on Wednesday.

His grounds for appeal were that the prosecution told the jury about evidence which was not presented during the trial; that police officers identified him based on a fleeting glance; the conviction was unsafe based on how the officers identified him; and there was an inconsistency with the verdicts.

Keith Myers, who represented Grant, argued that the jury should have been discharged because during his opening remarks, Crown counsel Patrick Moran told jurors they would hear evidence about trace amounts of cocaine, which was later ruled as inadmissible evidence by the judge.

Myers said because the jury later asked about the evidence surrounding the trace amounts of cocaine which was not presented to them, Justice Roger Chapple should have discharged them so as to prevent a potential prejudice.

“In our judgment, [the judge] dealt with the question from the jury in an entirely appropriate manner,” said the appeal judges in their written ruling. “He invited submissions from counsel as to the appropriate course and, following consideration from those submissions, determined that the manner should be dealt with by way of a firm direction to the jury to ignore the matter, which he delivered in impeccable terms.”

In CCTV footage of the robbery, the man who threatened a security officer with a machete had his face covered. However, CCTV images taken a few minutes prior to the robbery showed an unmasked man leaving the same car that the robber used to flee the scene. That man was identified by officers as Grant.

In Myers’ second submission, he argued that the officers identified Grant based on a “fleeting glance” and Justice Chapple should have given the jury directions which focussed on the quality of the identification presented by the police officers – a point with which the appeals judges also disagreed.

“This was no fleeting-glance case,” said the judges. “On the contrary, [the officers] had the opportunity of viewing the CCTV footage ‘umpteen’ times… They therefore had ample opportunity to consider whether the unmasked man in the footage was the appellant, as did the jury who were also able to view that CCTV footage many times.”

Myers then argued that the conviction was ultimately unsafe because the positive identification made by the officers was done by viewing the CCTV footage in each other’s presence, in an uncontrolled setting, and without a follow-up identification parade.

Although the appeals judges agreed this point was “at the heart of the application”, there were multiple examples where the strength of such convictions were deemed safe.

“Whilst it would have been preferable for [the officers] to view the footage separately, as [the judge] said, one can understand why this did not occur, given that the viewing took place in the immediate aftermath of a serious robbery and the first priority was to see if any lead could be obtained in order to advance the investigation,”  said the judges.

Myers’ final ground of appeal, which claimed that there was inconsistency in the verdicts, was also rejected by the judges, who said, “Mr Myers did not elaborate on why the appellant’s conviction was inconsistent with the acquittal of his co-defendants, but we have no hesitation in rejecting this ground.”

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