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Canterbury councillor Roger Matthews acquitted...

... but developer Julian Brealy convicted

A Kent property developer has been warned he could be facing a jail sentence after a jury convicted him of corruption. The verdict on Julian Brealy came shortly after Canterbury city councillor Roger Matthews was acquitted of the charge. The jury of six men and six women found estate agent and property developer Brealy guilty by a 10-2 majority. He was granted conditional bail until sentence on April 13. Brealy, of Mandarin Lane, Herne Bay, and Mr Matthews, of Beltinge Road, Herne Bay, denied the charge.

Mr Matthews, 58, was alleged to have corruptly received benefit by way of unpaid rent as a reward for promoting the interests of Brealy, 51, and two of his companies, Herne Bay Golf Club and Hollanby Estates Ltd. His landlord was Hollanby Estates. Brealy is managing director and a shareholder in the family business. Mr Matthews, who represented Greenhill and Eddington, denied he showed favour to Brealy in return for being allowed to live rent free for almost six years between May 2002 and July 2008 and failing to pay around £36,000.

Judge David Griffith-Jones QC ordered Brealy to surrender his passport and banned him from obtaining travel documents after hearing he was a director of Heron Helicopters. He will also have to report to police once a week. Philip Noble, defending, said he would be arguing there were "exceptional facts and other matters" that could enable a suspended prison sentence to be imposed.

"What is clear from the verdicts of the jury is they accept Mr Matthews did not corrupt him."

The judge said he made it absolutely clear that in adjourning sentence for reports there would be anything other than immediate imprisonment. But he added he would consider all the material put before him. Speaking after his acquittal, Cllr Matthews said:

"The whole thing has been hell for me. I knew I had done nothing wrong but you can never tell how it was going to go. When the verdict was read out I felt numb. I’d been told I faced up to two-and-a-half years in prison which just added to the pressure. I’m a very relieved man today. I’ve received so many texts and calls from people congratulating me and saying they always knew I was innocent."

Cllr Matthews said he had yet to decide whether to stand at the next local elections. He said:

"It’s something I have to think about. The jury has come to the right decision today, but mud sticks."

kentonline 19th Mar 2010

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