A well-known local boxing promotor denied being involved in wholesale drug dealing – despite being captured by his own CCTV cameras carrying two big bags of cannabis into his Coventry home.
And during a drama-packed trial at Warwick Crown Court, a juror was arrested on suspicion of jury-tampering, and the rest of the jury were discharged.
The judge then enforced a little-known and little-used power to continue hearing Leslie Allen’s trial, during which another man claimed the cannabis was his, without a jury.
Allen (62) of Longford Road, Coventry, had denied charges of possessing cocaine and cannabis with intent to supply them and a further charge of having a prohibited weapon, a pepper spray.
But after the dramatic developments during the trial and the discharge of the jury, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC spent a day weighing up the evidence before finding him guilty of all three charges.
Allen, a boxing promotor and the son of 1950s Bedworth boxing hero Les Allen, was jailed for 13 years.
Prosecutor Martin Liddiard said one of the large bags had grey heat-sealed bags of cannabis worth £50,000. A block of high-purity cocaine was found in the boot of Allen’s red X-type Jaguar with the personalised number plate LE54 BOX, weighing just under a kilo and worth £100,000.
At shortly after midnight on June 16, 2016, officers searched the house.
Allen claimed to know nothing about the cocaine, and of the bags of cannabis, he said a friend, Rugby man Darren Porter, had asked to borrow the car to collect some things from his girlfriend’s house, having split up with her.
He said Porter returned the car, handed him the keys and then went to a nearby pub – and when he saw the two bags on the back seat, he had carried them into the house, assuming Porter would be staying there that night.
Accepting he looked into one of the bags, he said he did not smell anything, and, on seeing the heat-sealed bags, assumed Porter had vacuum-packed his clothes.
Porter then gave evidence, claiming drug dealers to whom he owed money had told him to collect the bags of cannabis from an address in Rugby and to meet them at the pub.
But, according to the judge he then went ‘off-script’ by saying he had put the car keys through the letterbox, and that the bags of cannabis were in the boot. He denied having anything to do with the cocaine.
On the second day of the jury considering its verdicts, one juror sent a note expressing concerns about ‘juror number one’ – and as the judge and barristers were about to discuss that, another note in similar terms arrived from a second juror.
As a result, juror number one was discharged – but as he collected his phone, which should have been turned off, from the jury room, it was seen to be on with a blue light showing.
Concerned that he may have been recording the discussion, the judge ordered it to be examined by a police hi-tech unit.
That uncovered a recording of a phone call the previous night, discussing jury voting and the number of dissenters needed for Allen ‘to walk,’ which Judge Lockhart said showed ‘a concerted attempt to tamper with the jury through juror number one.’
He used a power under section 46 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to continue the trial without a jury, in what is believed to have been only the fourth or fifth time that power has ever been used.
He said he was satisfied Porter had been ‘persuaded by the defendant to come and give false testimony.’
And of Allen, the judge said: “I am driven to conclude that this man has hidden significant criminal activity behind a veneer of good character.”
James Doyle, defending, said: “He has done good work through charities for a long period of time. It is a great sadness he stands here to be sentenced in this way.”