Fitch-Holland a 'sideshow' in Cairns trial

Andrew Fitch-Holland at Southwark Crown Court Getty Images

The case of Andrew Fitch-Holland, the co-accused in the Chris Cairns perjury trial, has been reduced to the status of a "sideshow", according to his lawyer, Jonathan Laidlaw, QC.

Fitch-Holland denies perverting the course of justice, a charge he faces jointly with Cairns, after the pair allegedly attempted to secure a false witness statement from Lou Vincent, the disgraced former New Zealand batsman, in support of Cairns' successful libel action against Lalit Modi in 2012.

In the course of the six-week trial, Fitch-Holland has been characterised by the prosecution as a "star-struck" individual who had fallen so far under Cairns' influence that he was willing to risk his career and reputation as a lawyer.

However, Laidlaw argued that the prosecution had become so focused on securing a verdict against Cairns that they had allowed themselves to be taken in by the testimony of Vincent, a "deeply flawed individual" who "wouldn't recognise the truth if it struck him square in the forehead."

"The prosecution has become rather too Cairns-focused in this case," said Laidlaw. "Have they overlooked that there is a second man on trial here?"

The key evidence in the case against Fitch-Holland and Cairns, who also denies a second count of perjury, lies in a recorded Skype conversation between Fitch-Holland and Vincent, in which the defendant says: "Between you and I, we all know some of what is being said is clearly true".

Vincent, who was plainly uncomfortable in the course of the conversation, at one stage responds: "It's a big ask from me to... in a legal document say something that isn't true.

"Well that's right," Fitch-Holland replies.

Laidlaw dismissed the evidence as "the cursory, and unfair selection of six lines or so" and described the predicament of his client as being "the thing of nightmares for a practicing barrister".

"It can't get much worse that to be accused of interfering with a system of justice you plainly respect," Laidlaw said.

Vincent, by contrast, had - in the QC's estimation - "lied and lied and has literally escaped scot free", having avoided either a jail sentence or a fine despite confirming last year that he had taken money to influence matches.

"The word of a man who has committed umpteen criminal offences all over the world for which he has escaped with what? A ban, a life ban in cricket imposed at a time when he'd finished playing the game", Laidlaw said. "If it weren't so serious it would be laughable."

Throughout his testimony, Fitch-Holland maintained his belief that Cairns was innocent of match-fixing. Therefore, his lawyer added, if the jury believe that Cairns is not guilty then, by extension, the same ruling must apply to Fitch-Holland, because he cannot have contrived to cover up a crime that did not exist.

The judge is expected to begin his summing-up of the case on Friday, with the jury likely to retire on Monday to consider its verdict.