A megawave of tsunami proportions is slowly backing up and preparing to wash over the judicial system. Today there are a scant couple of regional journalists standing on what used to be the shore line, scanning the horizon and wondering what it all means.
Sarfraz Ibrahim is the name on the apparently insignificant eruption in downtown South Wales that was the catalyst for the wave. It may mean nothing now, but it will in time.
Let me explain.
It used to be that a common sense figure of invariably statuesque proportions known as the ‘custody officer’ in your local police station was in charge of ensuring that it was right and proper that you take up time in your local court and receive justice for your misdemeanours.
Then the government in its wisdom, decided that they would employ lawyers in offices far removed from the scene of the crime to decide whether it was in the ‘public interest’ for miscreants to be prosecuted. The perception has often been that ‘public interest’ meant ‘have we a better than 50% chance of winning this one’ or ‘is it worth wasting public funds on prosecuting that one’. Some of their decisions, notably when they have decided ‘not to prosecute’, have been inexplicable to the man in the street.
No longer, thanks to Mr Ibrahim.
In the long hot summer of 2008, two undercover policemen from the serious crimes squad were tailing a man they suspected of being a senior Cocaine baron, when he pulled into a service station on the M4 in Swansea and met two men they couldn’t identify.
Some indication of the level of drug trade infiltration they may have been involved in, though I have no confirmation that this is accurate, is the news released overnight of a cocaine related ‘success’ which commenced during those hot nights in the Swansea summer. Ten men are due to be sentenced at Cardiff for their part in cocaine dealing which stretched from Australia, via Panama, through Kent to Swansea. SOCA officers trailed many of the Swansea drug barons for weeks. If this is not the same case in which Mr Ibrahim featured then I’m a Dutchman.
Anyway, back to our Swansea service station. Our undercover officers could not identify the two men that their trailed drug baron met, so enlisted the help of local officers. The answer stunned them.
One of the two men was Sarfraz Ibrahim, who just happened to be the head of the serious trials unit in Gwent Crown Prosecution Service. The other was a close friend of his, a property developer, one Saifur Khan, ‘also of this parish’.
Our undercover officers were unable to hear the conversation, nor did they see any evidence of money changing hands, so for the purpose of this article we must assume that Mr Ibrahim was completely unaware that the man he was meeting was a major drug baron, and that the three of them had chosen the salubrious surroundings of the back of the maintenance depot at Swansea Services to discuss the weather and the latest cricket score, as he is fully entitled to in our free society.
The SOCA undercover officers were of a less charitable nature. Realising that they had been risking their lives and their health for some months in order to trail some dangerous members of an organised crime syndicate to produce evidence with which to persuade – huh! Mr Ibrahim, who gave every indication that he was at the least a good ‘social acquaintance’ of their target, they set up a sting operation.
They inserted another undercover officer, known only as ‘Nic Baker’ into the less than salubrious surroundings of one of the rickety bed-sits rented out by Ibrahim’s colleague, Khan. After a few weeks, this undercover officer ‘committed a crime’ –for which he was duly arrested by the local police, charged and witness statements sent to the Crown Prosecution Service for perusal by Mr Ibrahim.
Meanwhile, back at the bed-sit, Mr Baker told his landlord, Mr Khan that he was desperate not to be prosecuted, he would lose his job. No problem, said Mr Khan, my friend Mr Ibrahim will sort you out. That’ll be £20,000 to you.
Baker handed over the £20,000. Ibrahim duly scrawled ‘no case to answer’ over the papers on his desk and that should have been that.
It would have been, had Baker been a criminal. Since he was a SOCA officer, every step of this incident had been filmed.
On Monday, Ibrahim, 51, of Cardiff, admitted corruption, attempting to pervert the course of justice and misconduct in public office, between May and August last year. There was a reporting restriction until last night. The charges only relate to the police ‘sting’ operation. You can see where this is going.
Every case where Ibrahim has recommended ‘no case to answer’ will be under review. Police Officers who sweated for months to bring evidence to him only to be told that it wasn’t ‘in the public interest’ to prosecute will be demoralised and despondent, not sure whether their work was faulty or whether this was not the first time Ibrahim had taken a bribe to drop charges. Defendants in past cases will be demanding a retrial claiming that they only made statements admitting some charges after making payments to Ibrahim – or other CPS head of trials units.
It was an inevitable ending for a system whereby anonymous legal bods in high rise offices far removed from the crime ridden streets effectively judged whether our courts should even be allowed to hear a case.
Ibrahim was caught by chance, how many other Ibrahim’s lurk in the CPS offices?
There are unsubstantiated rumours that Ibrahim was ‘one million in debt’. How does a humble lawyer come to be one million in debt, if true? It is an inevitable result of a society where it is not just food and water that are considered essential, but a £2,000 handbag for the wife, an expensive home in the right street, membership of an exclusive golf club or spa…..if you can’t afford it you put it on your credit card or steal the money to pay for it – or accept bribes. The television repeatedly extols the virtue of the government scheme for you to go bankrupt and only repay ‘what you can afford’, but only ‘if you owe more than £15,000’.
Do I believe that is the only case in which Ibrahim took a bribe? About as much as I believe that Ibrahim is the only crooked lawyer in the CPS. No proof, but on the balance of probabilities……
Still, no need for him to worry about bending over in the showers, I reckon he has more to fear from the cups of tea smiling policemen will be pressing on him as he waits to hear his sentence. I wouldn’t drink them if I was him.