'Ministers jeopardised rapper's trial'

A member of controversial garage band So Solid Crew has been cleared of gun and drug charges.

As Shane Neil, 24, whose stage name is Kaish, walked free, his lawyers immediately condemned comments made by Culture Minister Kim Howells and Home Secretary David Blunkett about gun culture earlier this year, and refused to rule out legal proceedings.

In January Dr Howells attacked the "hateful lyrics of those boasting, macho idiot rappers" and Mr Blunkett condemned some rap lyrics for containing "appalling" violence.

Lawyers for Neil said that their comments had potentially created a climate which affected his right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the Human Rights Act and could have contributed to him spending four months on remand unnecessarily.

His solicitor Michael Schwarz said: "There is an issue around the effect the ministers' comments had on the atmosphere at the time crucial decisions were made in Shane's case about whether to prosecute and whether to continue charges.

"There is a responsibility on the Government to make sure people are dealt with fairly. We might be raising this with the ministers. It's too early to say whether we would consider legal proceedings."

Neil was alleged to have been carrying a loaded gun and to have offered to supply Class A drugs near London's Leicester Square on November 14 last year after attending a premiere of a Sony video game.

He was arrested along with Jason Phillips, 24, known as G-Man who is the band's executive producer.

Neil, from Battersea, south London was cleared at Southwark Crown Court in London of charges of possessing a gun, possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate and offering to supply drugs.

His trial had been expected to start later this month. But defence lawyers presented lip-reading evidence they said proved he had not made remarks which were alleged to have been captured on CCTV.

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