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Jeweller seeking 'trial by combat'

Jeweller seeking 'trial by combat'

Wednesday 21 April 2021

Jeweller seeking 'trial by combat'


A Jersey jeweller found guilty of laundering money as part of a £1m drug smuggling bid says he wants to fight against his conviction - literally.

Appearing in Jersey's Royal Court this week, Darius Pearce, 49, said he was hoping for his appeal to be dealt with via 'trial by combat', as he made a representation before Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith.

Pearce is currently in custody at HMP La Moye as he awaits sentencing on 5 July.

He was found guilty of money laundering in December at the end of a week-long trial, after he received cash from members of a criminal gang on three occasions in 2019.

He then bought gold with the cash from London bullion dealers, which was then quickly transferred back to cash.   

The money was used to fund an attempt by smugglers to land cocaine, MDMA and cannabis into Jersey using a chartered yacht that sailed from the UK and anchored near St. Catherine in July 2019.

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Pictured: Pearce previously ran a store in the Central Market, Jersey. 

But Police and Customs Officers had been tracking their movements for months and swept down on the gang as they brought the drugs ashore. Six men and one woman were jailed for a total of just under 74 years by the Royal Court last September. 

Pearce was arrested a day after the plot was foiled but, unlike the others, maintained his innocence.

He appeared before Commissioner Clyde-Smith yesterday to make several applications, including one for bail.

Setting out the reasons for his application, he said he had already served the equivalent of a six-month prison sentence, which he said was likely to be the maximum term to be imposed at his sentencing.

He also indicated he would be applying for his appeal to be dealt with by "trial by combat", and that there were therefore no grounds to keep him in custody in the meantime, given that the outcome of the appeal would either be his death or his freedom.

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Pictured: Pearce appeared before Royal Court yesterday to make his application.

Pearce previously made a similar application in May 2020 before Commissioner Clyde-Smith, who wrote in his judgment at the time that it had "raised a concern in my mind as to Mr Pearce’s mental health". The judgment also noted that the right to trial by combat had previously been abolished in England, but apparently still exists in Jersey law.

Pearce, who is representing himself, also said yesterday that he was unable to conduct his own defence from the prison as he didn’t have access to the internet, and couldn’t do any research or contact any witnesses.

During the hearing, Pearce also applied for the saisie judiciaire - a property forfeit order - to be amended, arguing that he didn’t own any properties.

Crown Advocate Matthew Maletroit said that Pearce had been “unwilling to comply with the order imposed on him” and had not provided a list of all the assets he owned and controlled.  

Pearce argued that all the assets in his jewellery shop had been transferred to his brother, and the assets from his gaming shop to his cousin, before his trial so that he could focus on his defence.

He suggested that since he didn’t own anything, he shouldn’t have to file any affidavit stating so. 

“To criticise me for something I don’t have to do is quite unfair,” he told the Court.

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Pictured: Pearce is currently awaiting sentencing at HMP La Moye.

The Crown Advocate, however, said Pearce had failed to provide any evidence of the assets belonging to someone else. 

He suggested Pearce should provide a proper list of ownership for all the assets seized, which are currently in the possession of the Viscount, before he can make an application for the saisie to be amended.

Pearce also applied for Crown Advocate Matthew Maletroit to be found in contempt of Court, suggesting he hadn’t sent Pearce the case law he was going to be relying on during sentencing. 

The Crown Advocate said the representation was “appalling”, as the Crown had made “every possible effort” to provide Pearce and his lawyers with the Crown's conclusions, the sentencing range along with authorities as well as the summary of facts “well before” the deadline set by the Court. 

“The suggestion that the Crown has failed to comply with the order is nonsense,” he added.

The Commissioner has reserved his judgment, which will be handed down at a later date.

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