The year 2023 saw the courts in Bolton and across Greater Manchester continue to do their best to deal with drug dealers, sex abusers, fraudsters and even killers.

But as lawyers, court staff, police and judges went about their work, warnings were made again and again about the dire state of the system itself. All while dealing with society’s most serious crimes the backlog of unresolved cases grew bigger and bigger.

The same pressures that had seen barristers take to picket lines in defence of their profession in 2022 saw victims in 2023 have to wait months or even years before they saw justice.

What follows are some of Bolton’s most high profile criminal cases that came before the courts over 2023, playing out against the backdrop of a system facing what one MP has called an “unprecedented mess".

The Bolton News: Many of the cases were dealt with at Bolton Crown CourtMany of the cases were dealt with at Bolton Crown Court (Image: Newsquest)

READ MORE: Thousands of victims wait for justice amid 'unprecedented mess' facing courts

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The Bolton News: Andrew Malkinson was vindicated as an innocent man this yearAndrew Malkinson was vindicated as an innocent man this year (Image: PA)

January - New evidence and a miscarriage of justice

The start of this year saw a case that would shake the justice system to its foundation and return again as the months wore on.

Andrew Malkinson, who had served 17 years in prison for a rape we now know he did not commit against a woman from Kearsley, finally had the chance to prove his innocence thanks to new DNA evidence. Mr Malkinson’s conviction has now been quashed and he joins the ranks of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven and Cardiff Three as one of the most infamous miscarriages of justice this country has ever seen.

Mr Malkinson’s ongoing search for the truth about what happened to him and why would echo throughout the year.

READ MORE: 'I am innocent' says man jailed for 17 years over rape as new evidence emerges

READ MORE: Senior judge to investigate 'atrocious' case of man jailed for rape he did not commit

The Bolton News: George McWilliam was jailed alongside his sonGeorge McWilliam was jailed alongside his son (Image: GMP)

February - Father and son together before the court

Violence, often seemingly inexplicable, stalked the courts in Bolton throughout the year 2023. But  few shocked as much as that of 62-year-old George McWilliams, of Stockton Drive Bury and his 35-year-old son Anthony, of Regent Street, Bury.

In what even a defence barrister called a “very strange case” the father and son attacked their victim at his own home in Bolton leaving him “naked and bleeding.” The older McWilliam was sentenced to 15 months in prison and his son to four years and nine months.

READ MORE: Father and son's 'savage' assault left victim 'naked and bleeding' in own home

READ MORE: Six criminals jailed by the courts in February

The Bolton News: Tauseef Sadiq stole more than £100,000 from the solicitors firm that employed himTauseef Sadiq stole more than £100,000 from the solicitors firm that employed him (Image: GMP)

March - A solicitor fraudster 

Not all crime leave a legacy of direct violence, but the actions of fraudster Tauseef Sadeeq proved in many ways just as damaging. The 31-year-old Sadeeq, of Cawdor Court, Farnworth, had stolen just over £100,473 over the course of a year while working for respected Bolton law firm Jacob Miller Solicitors.

The scale of the loss meant that the firm, which had already suffered “crippling losses” during the pandemic had to make eight people redundant. Sadeeq has betrayed their trust despite how, as prosecutor Colin Buckle said: “The firm was pleased and proud of the fact that the defendant was their first trainee solicitor, on his way towards full qualification.”

Sadeeq was jailed for two years.

READ MORE: Trainee solicitor stole £100k from respected Bolton firm in 'gross breach of trust'

READ MORE: Missing funds paralegal from Bolton banned from profession

The Bolton News: Darbyshire, Fitzgerald, Flatters(L-R middle row) Haslam, Linfoot, Corley(L-R bottom row) Hesketh, Turner, RaeDarbyshire, Fitzgerald, Flatters(L-R middle row) Haslam, Linfoot, Corley(L-R bottom row) Hesketh, Turner, Rae (Image: PA)

April - "Operation Pavarotti"

In spring this year 13 men charged in connection with Operation Pavarotti, a major police investigation into child sex abuse in the Blackrod area, made their first appearances in court.

First brought into the dock in groups of threes and fours at Bolton Magistrates Court, the 13 men looked on as they heard the wide range of charges levelled against them.

They returned to court several times over the course of this year. With the exceptions of 23-year-old Chorley man Callum Hesketh, who has admitted to making an indecent image of a child and 28-year-old Ross Corley, of Blackrod, has also confessed to two counts of sexual activity with a child, the men are now set to face two major trials towards the end of 2024 and the start of 2025.

READ MORE: 13 men appear in court charged with serious child grooming sex offences

READ MORE: Men told to get defences ready for child sex trials

The Bolton News: Tyrone Williamson (left) was murdered by Anthony George (right)Tyrone Williamson (left) was murdered by Anthony George (right) (Image: GMP)

May - "Revenge attack"

The consequences of a devastating murder that took place on Battenburg Road, just off Chorley Old Road on December 11, 2021, finally drew to a close in May this year. This was when three men were jailed after being found guilty of a “revenge attack” on Anthony George, the 42-year-old of no-fixed address who had murdered Tyrone Williamson that same evening. It appeared that George’s own

Jason Wilding, 29, of Withington Road, Whalley Range, Adam Disa Green, 22, of no fixed address, and Brendan Carney, 27, Cloister Street, Bolton were all jailed for their part in the attack. Wilding was jailed for 11 years and two months, Dissa Green for five years and 10 months and Carney for eight years and eight months.

READ MORE: Three men jailed for 'revenge attack' on murderer

READ MORE: Man jailed for life for the murder of a Bolton man who was stabbed through the heart

The Bolton News: An image of a house in Bolton investigated by the RSPCAAn image of a house in Bolton investigated by the RSPCA (Image: RSPCA)

June - "A case of such extreme neglect" 

One of the most shocking cases in recent years came before Bolton Crown Court has spring turned to summer. A couple from Bolton, who cannot be named for legal reasons to protect the identity of their daughter, had kept the girl in a filthy house strewn with the remains of a dead dog. The girl herself had had to share her bedroom with the decomposing corpse of a dead rabbit.

Even a judge as experienced as Nicholas Clarke KC was appalled by the details. Describing the evidence he had seen and heard, he said: “In all my career in the criminal justice system, and I have seen many examples in reports, on the news and in the courts, I have never seen a case of such extreme neglect.”

The couple, both in their 40s, pleaded guilty to child neglect and were sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to complete 300 hours of unpaid work with 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days. Their daughter was taken safely into foster care.

READ MORE: Couple kept child in 'filthy and appalling house' strewn with remains of dead dog

READ MORE: Inspector speaks out on 'awful' house where couple let dead dog decay

The Bolton News: Issa Brayzi-Pour was jailed for 13 yearsIssa Brayzi-Pour was jailed for 13 years (Image: GMP)

July - A rapist jailed thanks to his victims' courage

In July, a case that had been brought to Bolton Crown Court for trial earlier in the year concluding with the jailing of rapist Issa Brayzi-Pour. The 22-year-old of Longcauseway in Farnworth had raped a 70-year-old woman and sexually assaulted an underaged girl in August last year.

But thanks to the bravery of both of his victims Brayzi-Pour was found guilty after a trial and convicted of rape, sexual assault of a child and inciting a child to sexual activity. After the 22-year-old rapist was jailed for 13 years, Detective Constable Peter Hardy of Bolton CID paid tribute to his victims’ courage and said he hoped they could now “move on from what must have been a living nightmare.”

READ MORE: Rapist who targeted 70-year-old and sexually assaulted girl showed 'no remorse'

READ MORE: Jury delivers verdict in trial of man accused of raping pensioner

The Bolton News: Some of the drugs police say were found in raids they carried outSome of the drugs police say were found in raids they carried out (Image: GMP)

August - "Tentacles of criminality"

A wide-ranging criminal conspiracy was brought to light and dismantled at the height of summer at Bolton Crown Court. This came when 39-year-old Farnworth man Zulfiqar Khan and his associates, who headed a major drugs gang, were hit with steep prison sentences.

Judge Nicholas Clarke KC heard how the gang’s “tentacles of criminality” stretched across Bolton and beyond as they worked with another gang from Wigan to sell hard drugs in the town. All the while Khan hid behind his business Palm Motors, as an apparently respectable front.

Khan, of Lorne Street, was jailed for 20 years and four months while other members of the Bolton and Wigan gangs mostly followed suite with steep sentences.

Only Khan’s nephew, Haroon Rashid, of Loxham Street, Bolton who had been just 19 years old when he was involved in the drugs conspiracy avoided immediate jail time. Judge Clarke sentenced him to 19 months in prison, suspended for two years and hit him with a curfew confining him to his home between 7pm and 7am for three months after accepting he had fallen under “the malign influence of his uncle.”

READ MORE: Major drugs gang whose 'tentacles of criminality' spread across Bolton brought down

READ MORE:  Bolton people due in court after police raids 

The Bolton News: Zoltan Lakatos fled to London after causing the death of 60-year-old charity founder Aqeel AkhtarZoltan Lakatos fled to London after causing the death of 60-year-old charity founder Aqeel Akhtar (Image: GMP)

September - "An entirely unnecessary and avoidable death"

At the start of autumn a man who had left a devastating impact on a family and an entire community in Bolton was jailed. Zoltan Lakatos, 26, had been driving at what one witness called a “ridiculous speed” when he struck and killed 60-year-old Aqeel Akhtar. Devoted family man Mr Akhtar was a widely loved and respected figure in the community, renowned for his charity work and religious faith.

Lakatos, of no fixed abode, stood in stark contrast to the man who’s life he had cut short. The court heard how he had fled the scene, leaving his own passengers and Mr Akhtar injured and had gone as far as London to try to escape justice.

But he was eventually tracked down and sentenced to a total of 10 years and six months in prison for causing death by dangerous driving. As Lakatos stood in the dock, Judge Tom Gilbart told him “It was an entirely unnecessary and avoidable death, and you are responsible for it.”

READ MORE: Danger driver who killed 'kind and gentle' father and charity founder jailed

READ MORE: Tributes to kind and well-known father who tragically died 4 weeks after crash

The Bolton News: Moheed Khan had apparently wanted to go on a lads' holidayMoheed Khan had apparently wanted to go on a lads' holiday (Image: GMP)

October - "A lads' holiday"

While many criminals who come before the courts are driven by money or drugs, October saw a defendant jailed after a case his own barrister said was one “where severity meets stupidity in equal measure.”

Moheed Khan, 45, had tried to travel from his home on Crescent Road, Great Lever to Amsterdam and back again on a false passport he had apparently paid £300 after his own had expired. According to defence barrister Alex Beevers, Khan had simply wanted to go on a “lads’ holiday” and had broken the law in “what can only be described as an act of abject foolishness.”

This abject foolishness proved costly when Khan was jailed for 12 months after pleading guilty to possessing false identity documents.

READ MORE: Man who used false passport for 'lads' holiday' jailed for 'breath-taking stupidity'

READ MORE: Bolton's most wanted

The Bolton News: John Fairhurst had taken advantage of his victims over several yearsJohn Fairhurst had taken advantage of his victims over several years (Image: GMP)

November - "Abhorrent" child sex abuser behind bars

As the autumn wore on a child sex abuser was finally jailed after having taken advantage of several victims over several years.

John Fairhurst, 40, of Dudley Avenue, Bolton, had sent his victims intimate photos and asked them to take part in degrading acts as part of his campaign of abuse. But this campaign was finally ended after his arrest in October 2022 and after a trial this year, Fairhurst was convicted of 17 counts of sexual offences.

He was jailed for 24 years and hit with an indefinite sexual harm prevention order with and an indefinite restraining order keeping him away from his victims.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Constable Phillipa Fairclough said: “Fairhurst’s acts over several years were abhorrent and I am glad that he is now behind bars. I hope that the sentence is able to bring some comfort to his victims.

"This was a highly emotive and complex investigation to work on and we are committed to putting sexual offenders behind bars.”

READ MORE: Child sex abuser jailed after 'abhorrent' acts stretching across years

READ MORE: Several at-risk Bolton children have suffered abuse

The Bolton News: Christopher David boasted to border force officers that he would be backChristopher David boasted to border force officers that he would be back (Image: GMP)

December - "Back and forth, back and forth"

As the year drew to a close, a criminal who had plagued the authorities for the best part of 20 years was brought before the court. Christopher David, a 46-year-old Czech national, had come into the UK again and again since 2002 right up to his most recent arrest on Wigan Road in Deane.

During this time he had committed a string of crimes including affray, common assault, dangerous driving, possession of crack cocaine, shoplifting and theft. But his most recent arrest didn’t seem to trouble the experienced criminal defendant who, according to Alexander Hunter Gray told border force officers that he intended to return.

Mr Hunter Gray said: “On arrest he made what the Crown say are a number of significant comments including ‘I’ll be back and back.’”

He added: “’It’s your government wasting money, I’ll be back, back and forth, back and forth.’”

David was jailed for a total of 16 months.

READ MORE: 'I'll be back and back' deported criminal boasted to border control

READ MORE: 2022 court cases in review - A 'crumbling system' and the crimes that shook Bolton