Yesterday, we delved into ex-Metropolitan Police officer Jon Wedger’s false allegation that his attempts to bring a case of child trafficking to light had been suppressed by his superior officers. We identified the offender in the case, a woman named Fiona Walsh, and demonstrated that, far from the case being covered up, it had been tried, the offender convicted to 10 years in prison, and the story well-covered in the UK and Irish media.
In the wake of that blog post, a kind reader passed along to us a follow-up to the case: Walsh appealed her sentence, and the resulting judgment, delivered in 2008, offers further insight into the original trial.
(We have summarised the first three paragraphs of the appeal judgment, and will quote directly from the judgment beginning at Paragraph 4.)
The appeal was heard before Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Pitchford. Summing up the original trial, they said that on 30 April and 1 May 2007, in the Crown Court at Inner London, Fiona Walsh [“the applicant”] variously pleaded guilty on rearraignment. The plea was entered to five counts of an 18-count indictment, as follows:
- Count 1: Causing a child to engage in sexual activity, contrary to Section 10 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003;
- Count 4: Being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug of Class A (crack cocaine) to another;
- Count 11: Attempting to procure a girl under the age of 21 to have unlawful sexual intercourse;
- Count 15: Being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug of Class A (crack cocaine) to another;
- Count 18: Conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class A (heroin).
On 9 May 2007, Walsh was sentenced by HHJ Chapple, as follows:
- Count 1: Seven years’ imprisonment;
- Count 4: Four years’ imprisonment;
- Count 11: No separate penalty;
- Count 15: 12 months’ imprisonment (those sentences to be concurrent with each other, namely at this stage, seven years’ imprisoment);
- Count 18: Three years’ imprisonment consecutive.
4. That made a total of 10 years’ imprisonment, less 424 days spent on remand. In addition, an order was made disqualifying her indefinitely from working with children. She was also made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order prohibiting her from being in the company of a child or young person under the age of 18, save for brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces, unless she was also in the company of that child’s parent, legal guardian or other relative.
5. She now seeks leave, six months out of time, to renew her application for leave to appeal against that sentence, after refusal by the single judge.
6. The facts of this case, reflected where appropriate by the basis of plea, may be summarised in the following way. The applicant was born in 1973, and is therefore now aged 35 years. In the period from 1996 to 2006 she appeared before the courts on some 45 occasions for nearly 100 offences. They involved offences of dishonesty, vehicle-related offending, and from early 2003 onwards offences relating to prostitution.
7. The applicant worked as a prostitute in the Sussex Gardens area near Paddington Station in London. She was known as “Foxy”. Sussex Gardens is apparently a well-known red light area and includes a number of crack houses.
8. In early May 2003 the applicant met a 15-year old girl who was using the name of “X”, that girl being the subject of counts 11 and 15. X was already a regular user of crack cocaine, and was having a sexual relationship with a man called [redacted], who was one of her drug suppliers. The applicant’s first meeting with X took place in a flat off the Harrow Road which [redacted] shared with another drug dealer. Thereafter, the applicant saw X on a more or less daily basis for the remainder of May 2003.
9. During that time, the applicant supplied X with crack cocaine on a number of occasions. Count 15 was agreed to be a sample count in relation to those offences, upon the basis that both were addicts and that the supplies that took place were always in the context of joint purchasing, sharing or giving of drugs, with no financial benefits for the applicant other than obtaining better deals for herself.
10. At one stage [redacted], the drug dealer, told X that if she wanted crack cocaine from him she would have to sleep with both him and the other drug dealer who shared his flat. X was unhappy with this. She left the flat. When she returned, the applicant was there. The applicant took her into the bathroom and said, referring to drugs, “I don’t get it for nothing. Neither do you. You’re going to have to sleep with both of them”. The applicant pleaded guilty to count 11 in this regard, upon the basis that she tried to persuade X to have intercourse with [redacted], knowing that X was under age, but against the background that there was an already established sexual relationship between X and [redacted].
11. As we have indicated, the applicant’s relationship with X lasted for about a month in May 2003. Subsequently, X managed, with the help of Dr Barnardo’s, to break away from drugs and prostitution, and now apparently leads a normal life.
12. It was around Christmas 2003 or January 2004 that the applicant met Y, the subject of counts 1 and 4. Y was born in 1991, and was at this stage aged 12. Y was friends with another young girl called V who lived with her father (a drug addict) at the flat he shared with his girlfriend, who was also a drug addict and worked as a prostitute in the Sussex Gardens area. Thus the girlfriend and the applicant were known to each other, and the applicant used to visit the flat were V lived. It was there that the applicant met Y. She was a vulnerable and easily influenced child with a dysfunctional family background. Her single parent mother was a crack addict and a prostitute. Y was not herself involved in either crack cocaine or prostitution. The applicant wrongly believed that she was in fact a crack cocaine user.
13. The applicant began to supply Y with crack cocaine, such that, without forcing her, Y soon became hopelessly addicted to that drug. The supply continued from time to time over a period of about 2 years. Count 4 was agreed to be a sample count in relation to those offences. The basis of plea was that that supply was always in the context of joint purchasing, sharing or giving.
14. The applicant also introduced Y to prostitution with the result that she became a career prostitute. In her basis of plea, the applicant specifically accepted the prosecution’s fundamental assertion that she had in fact launched Y, aged 12, on that career.
15. Count 1, notwithstanding the width of date drafted, necessarily related to events after the coming into force of the Sexual Offences Act on 30th April 2004. It was accepted to be a sample count reflecting a number of occasions, probably in the region of five or so, over an approximately two-year period when the applicant caused Y to engage in sexual activity, as a prostitute, involving the penetration of her vagina. On occasions Y gave money from prostitution to the applicant, in order that the applicant could supply her with drugs.
16. The evidence showed that, in the result, Y’s life spiralled downwards and out of control, and remained so. It is unnecessary to go into the detail, beyond reference to part of what the learned judge said in passing sentence: “I have listened with sadness to the turn Y’s life has taken since these events. I repeat, no-one can say how Y’s life would have been had she not met you [the applicant]. However, it seems to me that you crushed whatever hope there may have been for her to lead a happy and fulfilled life.”
17. The applicant was arrested in respect of the offences in relation to Y in March 2006. When arrested, she declined to be interviewed. She was remanded in custody to Her Majesty’s Prison Holloway.
18. In April and May 2006, the applicant made a number of phone calls from that prison to a former boyfriend called HB. The calls were routinely recorded. In coded terms, the applicant arranged for small quantities of heroin to be sent to her in letters written by a young woman called LS. The applicant wanted to supply the heroin to another. Three such letters were written by LS but were intercepted by the prison authorities. They were respectively found to contain 0.99 grams, 0.77 grams and 0.86 grams of powder containing heroin. The applicant was arrested in respect of those matters on 20th September 2006. Again, she declined to answer questions in interview.
19. The matters urged in mitigation on the applicant’s behalf included the following matters: firstly, the pleas of guilty, albeit entered very late —in fact, 30th April 2007 which was due to be the first day of trial. However, Miss Marsh today urges us to bear in mind that that meant that neither of the girls in fact had to give evidence during the course of the trial. She also points to the fact that the Crown took the view on that occasion that they need not proceed on any other counts on the indictment relating to three other girls.
20. Also submitted as a matter of mitigation was the basis of plea; the unfortunate circumstances of her own life, resulting in her perception of normality being distorted, and thus explaining the applicant’s conduct towards the two girls. The quantity of the drugs involved in count 18 and the fact that they were intended for but one other person, and the importance of the involvement of the other two co-defendants in relation to that offence, and the manner in which they were subsequently dealt with is drawn to our attention. There was, further, the applicant’s health problems, the fact that she had successfully completed a short duration drug treatment programme in prison, as well as passing a number of drug tests, which meant in fact she was now clean of drugs, and she was now realising how her conduct towards Y, in particular, had been totally inappropriate; the fact that the applicant herself had three children, all of whom had been taken from her and placed into care; and finally, that, despite everything, the applicant still had the support of her parents and a close friend, correspondence from whom was put before the judge.
21. It is clear that the learned judge sentenced in accordance with the basis of plea. Nevertheless, he rightly pointed out, in respect of Y in particular, that children need to be protected and cared for, even sometimes protected from themselves. He went on to state that what the applicant had done, under the guise of befriending Y, was in fact to take gross advantage of her vulnerability, and that therefore the sentences to be passed in respect of counts 1 and 4 needed to properly reflect the public’s abhorrence at what the applicant had done; namely to introduce Y, a 12-year old child, to crack cocaine and prostitution.
22. As to the drugs conspiracy, the learned judge made clear that he was sentencing the applicant upon the basis that she was the instigator. He indicated that he would give credit for the plea, and the other mitigation, and in those circumstances he passed the sentences to which we have already referred.
23. Turning to the co-defendants HB and LS, they had in fact pleaded guilty to count 18: HB on the basis that the supply was to be to another, LS on the basis that she understood that the supply was to be solely to the applicant. HB was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment, and LS (apparently a reforming drug addict) was given a community sentence with a 12-month residential drug rehabilitation requirement.
24. As to the leave to renew the application, Miss Marsh QC has indicated in her written documentation that the delay was entirely the result of an administrative error by the applicant’s lawyers, and no fault of the applicant herself. Whilst the delay is, even so, a very long one, we nevertheless give leave to renew this application.
25. As to the merits of the application for leave to appeal against sentence, Miss Marsh submits the following: firstly, that the sentence of seven years’ imprisonment imposed on count 1 was manifestly excessive; secondly, that the sentence of three years’ imprisonment imposed on count 18 was manifestly excessive, on its own account, and compared to the sentences passed on her co-defendants; and finally, that the totality of the sentence imposed, namely 10 years, was again manifestly excessive.
26. In support of those submissions, both in her written submissions to this court and before us today, Miss Marsh relies upon the various matters which she urged in mitigation before His Honour Judge Chapple. She also points, as far as count 1 is concerned, to the existing family circumstances of the young victim, how it was that she came to meet the applicant, and how, in Miss Marsh’s submission, the young victim had already been to some extent corrupted before coming into contact with the applicant. There is today also a reference to the Sentencing Guidelines Council in respect of the matters relating to count 1. She also asks us to look very carefully at the judge’s interpretation of the basis of plea relative to the applicant’s view of the young victim, her home circumstances and previous experience.
27. In refusing leave, the single judge made the following observations: “You are 33. Y was 12 when you met her. As the judge pointed out, under the guise of befriending her you took gross advantage of her vulnerability. You supplied her with crack cocaine. You launched her career as a prostitute. The sentences on count 1 and 4 could have been shorter but consecutive. You could have received a consecutive sentence for the offences involving X. The sentence on count 18 was well-merited. You were the instigator. There is no disparity argument. The total sentence here was not manifestly excessive, and sufficiently took into account your pleas and their timing.”
28. Although we accept that the total sentence was severe, we find it impossible to say that it is manifestly excessive in all the circumstances of this very serious case. In fact 10 years is not a day too long. For those reasons this application is dismissed.
And there you have it: Foxy’s appeal judgment spells out a sad and very ugly story of a woman who cynically and seemingly without remorse sexually trafficked at least five young girls (X, Y, and three whose charges were dropped on account of the guilty plea). She ruined the life of at least one, to the point where at the time of judgment she seemed to have had little hope of recovering.
This is not, as Wedger would have us believe, a story of covered-up corruption in high places. It is a story of exploited adolescents, and a woman who was convicted, sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, and denied her sentence appeal.
At this point, his story having been exposed as a complete sham, Wedger owes his followers and those who have supported him a full and earnest apology. Will that happen? Perhaps when pigs fly.