Friday, August 26, 2005

Pissups and Breweries (3)

We were down to hear a few trials today, and one of them involved a man with an allegedly illegal tyre on his car. This sort of case is not very taxing on the intellect, as all that we have to do is make a simple finding of fact and acquit or convict accordingly. The defendant had refused a fixed penalty of £60 plus 3 points and pleaded not guilty. He had come from Gloucester, and brought a solicitor with him, so he was having a potentially expensive day out.

The prosecutor stood up apologetically and told us that she could not find the case papers, and that the policeman who had come to give evidence did not have any papers either. She asked for an adjournment and I gave her a sceptical glance and asked for comments from the defence. This seemed to take the solicitor by surprise and he mumbled and faffed about the distance that his client had travelled. "Are you opposing the application to adjourn?" I asked him. The penny dropped and he said that he was. My colleagues' agreement took a few seconds to check, and we said that we refused to adjourn and that the Crown must proceed. At that point she bowed to the inevitable and offered no evidence, whereupon we dismissed the case.

We looked at the defence brief expecting an application for costs, but it took a pointed question from the clerk to jolt him into it. We made an order that his client's costs be reimbursed out of central funds.

We wasted an hour or so of court time, plus the defendant's costs. A police officer wasted most of a morning. A man who might have been guilty was acquitted because of a prosecution foul-up that a ten year-old should have been able to prevent - how hard is it to keep hold of an A4 folder?

Why did our man refuse a fixed penalty and lay out money on legal costs and travel? My guess was that he already had a few points on his licence and was desperate to avoid another three, but I shall never know if I was right.

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