Spot-fixing: Judge asks if Lord’s was ‘just tip of the iceberg’

The judge at the cricket corruption trial today said he rejected the terms of Mohammad Amir’s plea claiming that he was only involved in a “one-off” incidence of spot-fixing.

Mr Justice Cooke said the evidence in the five week trial suggested the teenage bowler’s corruption may have run deeper than the Lord’s Test against England.

Amir, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif appeared in the dock together for the first time today at the sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court.

Mr Justice Cooke said he wants to know whether the deliberate no balls they arranged at Lord’s were an isolated incident or “just the tip of the iceberg”. The sentencing hearing is aimed at determining the significance and role of each player in the conspiracy.

The judge has questioned Amir’s plea, because of evidence the bowler was allegedly sending texts to underworld figures in Pakistan, who asked him to concede a set number of runs in his opening spell at the Oval Test match against England.

The judge said the messages conflict with Amir’s plea, which was made on the basis of three points. Firstly, that his involvement was limited to the bowling of no balls at Lord’s. Secondly, that it was the defendant’s “first and only involvement”, making it an “isolated and one-off event”.

Finally, that Amir “only became involved as a result of pressure (not amounting to physical threats) and influence, to the effect that, if he did not become involved, he would suffer serious professional implications for this future career.”

Mr Justice Cooke wants to determine exactly what “pressure” Amir was put under by his captain, Butt, to bowl the no balls.

Mr Justice Cooke said: “It is plain to me that the captain’s role is a much more significant one and that is something I am bound to take into account.”

Lawyers representing Amir said that the young bowler will not give evidence from the witness box to clarify his position, but will be represented instead by his barrister, Henry Blaxland, QC.

Mr Blaxland said: “Amir wishes to say he takes full responsibility for his actions and does not blame others.”

The judge challenged the barrister when he declared that Amir would not be giving evidence, but the guilty defendant cannot be forced into the witness box.

The court also heard that although Amir initially told police he had bowled the no balls due to “slippery conditions” he then pleaded guilty at “almost” the earliest possible opportunity after being charged, which will count in his favour.

All the defence teams present mitigation on behalf of the cricketers this afternoon and the sentencing hearing is likely to continue into tomorrow.

At 11.30am Mr Justice Cooke adjourned court until 2pm to allow him to read 19 pages of mitigation from Amir’s defence team, which was served upon him this morning.

It is expected that the afternoon session will analyse the three texts from Amir to an unidentified Pakistan mobile number on the eve of the Oval Test match.

The first read: “How much and what needs to be done?”

After receiving an unknown reply, Amir then texted: “This is going to be too much.”

Later he appeared to confirm instructions to him: “So in the first 3, bowl however you want, and the last 2, do 8 runs?”

In the event, Amir only bowled four overs in his opening spell at the Oval. However in his last two, as the text said, he conceded eight runs – with a boundary conceded off his last ball.

After Amir was interviewed by police and had his phone seized, he also used the mobile of agent Azhar Majeed to text another bookie in Pakistan.

The message said: “’Amir here. Don’t call my phone. ICC police have taken my phone. Are you able to delete those calls you made to me? If you can, do it OK. Don’t reply.”

Follow RDJ Edwards in court on Twitter – @Cricketer_RDJ

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