Bid for freedom by ex-cathedral guide

PUBLISHED: 12:35 09 February 2006 | UPDATED: 11:33 04 May 2010

APPEAL: Andrew Billimore

APPEAL: Andrew Billimore

A FORMER Ely Cathedral guide who was jailed for 20 years after it was alleged he made a £640 million fortune from drug-dealing is making an unopposed bid for freedom. Crown Prosecution Service lawyers told top judges they would not fight Andrew Billimore

A FORMER Ely Cathedral guide who was jailed for 20 years after it was alleged he made a £640 million fortune from drug-dealing is making an unopposed bid for freedom.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyers told top judges they would not fight Andrew Billimore's appeal against his conviction for conspiring to supply cocaine.

Billimore, 39, of Lawn Lane, Little Downham, was jailed for 20 years at Norwich Crown Court in September 2000.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis, supplying cannabis, possessing class B drugs with intent to supply, and perverting the course of justice.

The conspiracy charge carries an 18-year jail term, meaning Billimore could be released immediately.

At the Appeal Court, CPS counsel John Caudle said the evidence of a key witness who testified against Billimore could not now be relied upon, and prosecution lawyers would not oppose his conviction appeal.

The barrister told Lord Justice Pill, Mr Justice Newman, and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones: "Were this court to order a retrial, we could not rely on the witness as a witness of truth.

"Had we known information then, at the trial, that we know now, and revealed it to the defence, the witness could have been cross-examined on it."

Billimore was described at his trial as "a premier league" criminal, who dealt "at the very top of the bracket in cannabis and class A drugs".

He was said to be a main player in the "most significant" drug ring seen in Eastern England for many years.

But Mr Caudle told the court: "We will not be opposing the appeal against conviction from 2000. Billimore's appeal should be heard as soon as possible."

Now the court will consider Billimore's appeal in full on February 14, and decide whether the conviction should be quashed as "unsafe".

Billimore's counsel David Bate QC, asked for his "immediate release" from prison as he had served six years and nine months already.

He told the judge: "The reasons are overwhelming. The conviction is manifestly unsafe, and the evidence relied on was fatally flawed.

"If there were a retrial, the prosecution could not offer any evidence because there was no other evidence against Mr Billimore."

However, the judges refused to release him pending the hearing, at which Billimore will also challenge the sentences imposed for the other offences he admitted.

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