Dance Academy boss Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh is freed from jail
DANCE Academy owner Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh has spent his first night in four years in a bed rather than a prison cell – after being released on bail.
Bahmanzadeh, aged 55, serving a nine year sentence for allowing his Union Street nightclub the Dance Academy to be used to sell Ecstasy, yesterday walked free from court in The Strand, London.
A senior appeal judge at the Royal Courts of Justice said his was "one of those exceptional cases" where bail could be allowed to a convicted prisoner.
The full appeal hearing is expected to take place in November, but it means Bahmanzadeh, who has been working six-day weeks on day-release at a Brighton charity shop, can live with his nephew in the Sussex resort until the appeal.
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Up until yesterday he was being held at HMP Ford open prison in Arundel, West Sussex.
The Ministry of Justice website states that HMP Ford "operates a full employment policy and all offenders arriving at Ford will be required to work either within the establishment or in the community following thorough risk assessment".
Speaking after his release, Bahmanzadeh told The Herald: "I can only say, this is just the first step towards clearing my name and I will not stop until I get justice."
He was convicted in July 2008 following a lengthy investigation and trial.
An undercover police operation at the club had resulted in numerous successful "test purchases" of drugs. The Union Street venue was eventually raided by 140 police officers in riot gear on May 6, 2006.
Bahmanzadeh repeatedly claimed during his trial he did everything that could be expected of him to deter drug dealing at the club.
Despite his protests, he was found guilty and handed a nine-year sentence, but was yesterday granted bail pending an appeal against conviction.
The conviction came into question after the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred it back to the Court of Appeal as a potential miscarriage of justice.
The appeal hearing was expected to take place this month, but was put back until the end of the year due to problems with paperwork.
At a previous hearing, Mr Justice Nicol directed lawyers to "get their skates on" as under sentencing rules Bahmanzadeh was eligible to be released at the halfway point of his sentence, which would be December 31 this year.
The club boss's case revolves around new evidence which has come to light and which is said to cast doubt on the reliability of a key prosecution witness at the trial.
The fresh evidence, not available at the time of Bahmanzadeh's trial at Plymouth Crown Court in 2008, suggests the witness had himself been a drug dealer.
Lord Justice Laws, Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Mitting heard how Bahmanzadeh had already paid a £1 million confiscation order, which would be refunded if he wins his appeal. This sum, they were told, was a real incentive for him not to skip bail.
Lord Justice Laws said: "We have considered the circumstances carefully and concluded that this is indeed one of those exceptional cases in which it is proper and just to grant bail pending appeal.
"We therefore grant bail on the terms that the appellant resides at the Brighton address and that he reports to a nominated local police station twice a week between 6am and 9pm."