Chris Cairns perjury trial November 16, 2015

Cairns lawyer casts doubt on key witnesses

ESPNcricinfo staff

Chris Cairns' defence lawyer, Orlando Pownall, QC, is making his closing statement © Getty Images

Four of the nine key witnesses in the Chris Cairns perjury trial - including Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori and their disgraced former team-mate, Lou Vincent - have been denounced as liars by Cairns' defence lawyer, Orlando Pownall, QC, during his closing speech at Southwark Crown Court.

Responding to what the crown prosecutor, Sasha Wass, QC, had described as a "wall of evidence" against Cairns during her own closing speech last week, Pownall dismissed her remarks as the "unrestrained use of hyperbole". Some of the witnesses, he conceded, may have been telling the truth, but not all of them.

"The Crown has said on more than one occasion that Mr Cairns's case is that nine witnesses are lying," Pownall told the jury. "That is not the case on behalf of Mr Cairns."

Instead, Pownall asked the jury rhetorically whether McCullum, Vettori, Vincent and Vincent's ex-wife, Eleanor Riley, had all lied during their spells in the witness box. His response was "yes" on each occasion.

McCullum, who took time out of New Zealand's preparations for the ongoing Test series with Australia to appear in person in court, was taken to task by Mr Pownall for failing to mention the names of two other implicated players, Vincent and Daryl Tuffey, in his initial statements to the ICC about Cairns' alleged match-fixing.

"It's rather more than a little detail," Pownall said.

Vincent, who was banned for life from cricket last year after admitting taking money to influence matches, was accused by Pownall of "formulating a plan … to give the authorities a big name" so as to avoid "the consequences of his crime".

"It's not speculation, it's acknowledgment of reality," Pownall said. "He's been successful. He's never been arrested, or cautioned. He's never been charged. He's never had to pay back a penny piece."

Vincent's prime motivation, he added, was to drum up publicity for a book about Cairns, due for publication in the wake of the trial. "We submit the title won't be 'The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth'," said Pownall. "We suggest a more apt title might be 'The Great Escape'.

"He has lied, he has lied on countless occasions, pretending to tell the truth, and more significantly he has lied to you," Pownall told the jury.

He also dismissed Riley, whose fears about Vincent's activities had allegedly been raised with Cairns in a bar in Manchester in 2008, as a "half-witness", claiming that her recollection of their conversation had been "in drink".

He also warned the jury not to be influenced by the number of witnesses that the prosecution had succeeded in bringing to the trial.

"Don't be over-impressed by a numbers game - it's nine-one," he said. "Resist that temptation, we urge you. The fact that something was said does not make it true."

Cricket's authorities, Pownall added, were "determined to have the scalp of an innocent man".

"Our case is that the ICC and the ACSU have had a mindset that Mr Cairns was guilty. That over the years and in the course of their examination and investigation they have been affected, with what they did and what they failed to do, by that.

"Although the trial is about sporting activity, the trial is not a game and unsportsmanlike observations should not be made."

Cairns denies two counts of perjury and perverting the course of justice, relating to his successful libel action against Lalit Modi in 2012. His co-defendant, Andrew Fitch-Holland, denies one count of perverting the course of justice.

The defence will continue its closing statement on Tuesday.