Spot-fixing controversy October 24, 2011

No reliable evidence against Butt - lawyer

Richard Sydenham at Southwark Crown Court

The lawyer of former Pakistan captain Salman Butt argued there is no reliable evidence for a jury to hand down a criminal conviction against his client, and accused the prosecution of "working backwards from an assumption of guilt", a London court heard on Monday.

On day 14 of the trial, Butt sat listening intently in the dock throughout the closing speech by his representative Ali Bajwa QC, as the jury heard why he should not be handed a guilty verdict. This followed a three and a half hour speech from prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee QC, who highlighted Butt's "corrupt relationship" with agent Mazhar Majeed.

Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif face charges of conspiracy to cheat, and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, following the Lord's test in August last year when they allegedly conspired with Majeed, teenage paceman Mohammad Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-planned no-balls. Butt and Asif deny the charges.

Bajwa played on the conscience of the jury and asked them to consider if they had really heard enough genuine evidence that links Butt to the no-balls in question. He referred to a great, British tradition of justice and also sought to undermine the credibility of Majeed, as he has done consistently throughout the trial.

"Every phone call he makes, every text he receives, every pound he earns has been presented to you as suspicious," Bajwa said to the jury, after apologising for sounding indignant following on from Jafferjee's speech. "But what I suggest to you is going on is that Mr Jafferjee has been working backwards from an assumption of guilt.

"Salman Butt's life has been torn apart to the point of analysing his bank records, his every move and even anything his mother does or planned. If I worked backwards from any of your lives (the jury) I could find or twist things about what you have or might not have done.

"What we are asking you here is to stand back from this case and uphold that strong tradition of justice and say we are not going to presume that there is no smoke without fire. That is no basis for justice.

"When you came into this court room for the first time you all took an oath to say you will give a verdict according to the evidence and nothing but the evidence. In the case of Salman Butt there simply isn't enough evidence to find Salman Butt guilty. There seems to be a fix between Mazhar Majeed and Mohammad Amir and you must decide if that fix involved Mohammad Asif. What reliable evidence does the prosecution have that Salman Butt was involved in the fix of the Lord's no-balls?

"When all is said and done and after I remove the sand that has been thrown in your eyes suggesting the claims that have been thrown at you (from the prosecution), it all comes down to August 26 and 27 and the News of the World journalist and the words of Mazhar Majeed at the Copthorne Tara Hotel on August 25."

There was £2,500 of marked News of the World money discovered in Butt's room during a police raid, though Butt claims that money was handed to him by Majeed as a half payment towards a fee for opening an ice cream parlour in tooting, London. Bajwa reminded the jury how they had been told that Butt had confirmed earnings of £548,000 between mid-2007 to 2010 and how that was hardly "peanuts" by British or Pakistani standards but it "suited Majeed" to say as much.

Bajwa, who told the jury that Majeed will not be cross-examined, added: "Is it right that we can condemn someone on the words of a man without his evidence being tested in court? You are being asked to give a criminal conviction on the strength of Majeed's evidence. Majeed was £704,000 overdrawn and on the verge of bankruptcy.

"This is a man who claimed be good friends with Brad Pitt, Roger Federer and former England players like Mike Gatting, Geoff Boycott and Phil Tufnell - who won 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here'. Well I say Majeed is the celebrity and we need to get him out of here."

The case continues.