Andrew Fitch-Holland's honest explanation of a Skype conversation has been compared to someone accused of witchcraft - either drowned for telling the truth, or burnt at the stake.

In closing the defence case on a charge of perverting the course of justice, Jonathan Laidlaw QC reminded the jury his client was criticised by the Crown for giving an account that was "too good to be true".

Crown prosecutor Sasha Wass QC said Fitch-Holland gave an innocent meaning to "very guilty words" was an insult to the intelligence of the jury.

His explanation to the police, repeated consistently in his evidence at trial, was contrived as honest witnesses can't get every detail right, said Ms Wass.


This was "deeply unfair" said Mr Laidlaw and the Crown line of argument was similar to the trials of women accused of witchcraft in medieval times.

If they drowned, they were innocent. If they survived, they were witches and burnt at the stake.

"You're damned if you do, damned if you don't," said Mr Laidlaw.

Consistency was a sign of truthfulness, said the Queen's Counsel, and inconsistency which undermines credibility.

Mr Laidlaw said the Crown was fearful as they recognised Fitch-Holland gave a "compelling account delivered by an honest and innocent man".

He urged the jury to listen to the Skype call again with that in mind.

In summing up his defence, Mr Laidlaw said Fitch-Holland was living a "nightmare" in which he sat accused in the Southwark Crown Court where he normally worked as a prosecutor or defence barrister.

Fitch-Holland's position was very clear - he never believed Chris Cairns was involved in match-fixing and it would "break his heart" if he was wrong.

Chris Cairns arrives at Southward Crown Court in London today. Photo / Chris Gorman
Chris Cairns arrives at Southward Crown Court in London today. Photo / Chris Gorman

If the jury acquitted Cairns of perjury, then Mr Laidlaw said the Crown case against Fitch-Holland must be dismissed also.

But if the jury found Cairns guilty of perjury, they must then consider three "hurdles" before Fitch-Holland could be convicted.

The Crown must prove Fitch-Holland knew Chris Cairns and Lou Vincent were both involved in match-fixing. If they did, then Mr Laidlaw said the Crown must also prove Fitch-Holland asked Vincent to provide a false statement to support Cairns in the libel proceedings against Lalit Modi.

There was no evidence that Fitch-Holland knew either of the cricketers were involved in match-fixing, said Mr Laidlaw.

He confronted Cairns about the allegations on two occasions and Cairns dismissed them as "pub talk".

Fitch-Holland and Cairns were close friends with a deep bond and Mr Laidlaw suggested to the jury that if Cairns was a match-fixer, then his client would be the last to know.

"What is your experience of people who live a lie? The last thing that people living a lie do is reveal that lie to those they are closest to," said Mr Laidlaw.

Cairns did not tell Fitch-Holland about his new relationship while already married or how Lou Vincent wanted money to provide a statement for the libel trial.

On the topic of Vincent, the QC said the cricketer was a "deeply flawed individual who has lied and lied hard", someone who would not recognise the "truth if it struck him square in the forehead".

He poured scorn on the Crown submission the jury could safely rely on Vincent's evidence.

Lou Vincent arrives at Southwark Crown Court. Photo / Chris Gorman
Lou Vincent arrives at Southwark Crown Court. Photo / Chris Gorman

"The word of a man who has committed umpteen criminal offences all over the world," said Mr Laidlaw, noting Vincent escaped punishment other than a cricket ban at the end of his career.

The Crown accused Fitch-Holland of making "blunders" in his evidence by asking Cairns whether there was a "smoking gun" and pointing out other perjury cases arising from libel trials.

This was an "astonishing suggestion", said Mr Laidlaw, where a friend with legal experience tells Cairns "just how badly things might go wrong if you're not truthful and that somehow becomes an admission".

As for the "Cairnsy's guilty" comment which Chris Harris heard during a festival cricket lunch, Mr Laidlaw said Fitch-Holland joined the group part way through the conversation.

His client was drunk and believed the context would have been Cairns' personal life, not the match-fixing allegations, as his divorce had only recently been completed.