A County Durham man repeatedly went to a petrol station to pressure an attendant to file evidence

0

A man pressured a witness to give evidence against him in a drunk driving case, leaving the victim uncomfortable working alone at night, a court has heard.

Lee Holmes led an almost campaign of harassment against the witness, who worked at a gas station, often at night, in the hope that he would withdraw his cooperation from a police investigation into the drunk driving allegation .

Durham Crown Court heard that Holmes was subsequently treated for driving over the prescribed alcohol limit, his seventh such conviction, but new charges have been brought against him, alleging acts tending or intended to pervert the course of justice.

The 43-year-old defendant, from Kyo Lane, near Stanley, denied two of those charges during a plea hearing in court in March.

Read more: County Durham woman admits making false report to police

One of the charges alleged that between November 5, 2020 and January 6 last year, he committed a series of acts in an attempt to persuade a witness in an ongoing criminal investigation not to testify.

Count 2 stated that on a specific date, January 5, 2021, he attempted to persuade a witness not to cooperate with the prosecution.

Following a two-day trial earlier this week, a jury found him guilty on both counts on Tuesday and the sentence was adjourned until today (Wednesday September 28).

Deborah Smithies, prosecuting, told the sentencing hearing that the accused had 25 prior convictions for 42 prior offences, including seven for drunk driving, although she pointed out that there were a gap in his offenses between 2015 and 2021.

Miss Smithies added that the Court of Appeal has made a statement of policy calling for custodial sentences to be imposed in most cases of perversion or attempted perversion of the course of justice.

Sarah Procter, by way of mitigation, first apologized for the defendant’s behavior, an outburst made during jury verdicts on Tuesday.

“He is ashamed and asks me to apologize.”

Regarding the offenses themselves, Miss Procter said: ‘They were opportunists, as he visited the garage, at a time when he was preoccupied with the incident and rather awkwardly tried to speak to the witness of the Case.”

She said it was “misguided” and no money was offered in an attempt to bribe the witness.

“There were no real threats made and only, perhaps, a vague threat which the witness did not really feel, although he felt anxious when working at night.”

Miss Procter said the main problem behind Holmes’ delinquency was his heavy drinking, an addiction which he was unable to control and which has “plagued his adult life”.

She said the pressure of ongoing proceedings over the past two years had made her drinking problem worse.

Read more: Case against ex-detective in “closed” private prosecution

Miss Procter added that he wanted to try to control his problems and that an alcohol treatment program offered by the probation service might prove effective.

But Judge Jo Kidd told Holmes he was convicted of offenses which reflected “a tendency” to regularly visit the petrol station when the witness was working alone.

Judge Kidd said she was satisfied it was ‘deliberate’ rather than ‘opportunistic’, even taking children with him in the early hours of the morning on one occasion with the intention of putting further ‘stress and tension’ on the victim.

She said there could be no other reason to do so than “to compel him not to cooperate with a police investigation”.

Judge Kidd also charged Holmes with “deliberate, persistent, purposeful and sustained” conduct.

“It did not involve any physical threat against him, but it was done in a way that sought to persuade him not to cooperate with the investigation.”

Imposing a 12-month prison sentence, she added that cases like this, “which strike at the heart of the criminal justice system”, must be met with immediate prison sentences.

Read next:

County Durham woman jailed for falsely reporting burglary and car theft

St Helen Auckland father and daughter admit conspiring to pervert the course of justice

Man on suspended prison sentence admits driving

If you want to read more great stories, why not subscribe to your Northern Echo for as little as £1.25 a week. Click here

Share.

Comments are closed.