“Grindr killer” Stephen Port has had a judge send him to jail for a minimum of 17 years for orchestrating a campaign of violence against five gay men.
Port has been found guilty of murdering all five of his victims using a cocktail of drug and alcohol, and of administering a course of conduct likely to cause grievous bodily harm. The verdicts, delivered at London’s Old Bailey in a trial lasting two months, included an order to serve at least 17 years for the murder of Gabriel Kovari.
And Port’s two co-accused have also been found guilty of murder. Daniel Whitworth, 29, was jailed for at least 18 years, and Port’s friend, 29-year-old Jack Thorne, received a ten-year minimum term.
Port, who had previously denied all three charges, became an unwitting public figure in late August 2014 when the bodies of four of his victims were found. The five men were aged between 21 and 32 and had met Port online.
Related Image Expand / Contract Stephen Port on his visit to Egypt in 2016
One of the victims, Anthony Walgate, 23, was discovered in a toilet with blood on his trousers and boots. Another, Daniel Whitworth, was found face down in the Thames, his hands bound above his head with cable ties. Port, who lived in Barking, was known to have manipulated his victims to gain access to their rooms before he carried out attacks. He was arrested on August 26, 2014, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided he would be tried separately.
Port took issue with the CPS decision and challenged the case. The matter was taken to the Court of Appeal, which instructed the CPS to proceed with the case regardless.
When Mr. Whitworth went to trial in October, Port announced he would testify against his two co-accused.
But when it came to a jury trial a month later, Port said he would not give evidence against Thorne and Whitworth. He was thrown out of the dock, but the jury failed to reach a verdict. Whitworth was acquitted.
Related Image Expand / Contract Judge Haig said Port “suffered a marked deterioration in personality during a period of 52 days in pre-trial custody” as a result of his time in jail.
On April 18 Port sent a letter to the judge in the case reading: “Due to the fact of no convincing evidence of a link between the conduct of the defendants and the crime of murder, to allow these two defendants to walk free would be the equivalent of saying you cannot punish the offender because you cannot prove the crime, when your prejudice is not quite such that you can ignore obvious evidence which can prove the crime, but keeps you from punishing the offender even if it is proven you were party to it.”
But Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith ruled that the judge who refused Port’s application to give evidence against his co-accused knew the law and applied it appropriately.
As a result of his decision, Port was sent to prison.
This decision raises significant concerns about the “capability of our criminal justice system to properly enforce sentences in cases where the offender claims not to be guilty and questions the authenticity of the evidence to be used against him,” said Mary McCombe, chief executive of the Prison Reform Trust.
“The Crown Prosecution Service routinely withholds crucial witnesses from court and orders successive trials in cases which have all the hallmarks of the injustices of this case. The same operator was the prosecutor at Port’s trial and the single arbiter of whether or not the evidence would be allowed,” she said.
The Guardian reports the judge presiding over the trial described the “disastrous” handling of the case.
“[The] trial should have taken one week and it had four,” said Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith. “It was unnecessarily adjourned. It was the position of the prosecution and the judge that there was a reasonable doubt in relation to the case.”
Port is serving another six-and-a-half years in jail for the manslaughter of his first victim, warehouse worker Jack Taylor, after he supplied him with crystal meth in May 2014.
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