Saturday, April 02, 2016

Another Odd 'Un

Last week we were faced with three trials. As is so often the case one fell over for technical reasons, the second was withdrawn by the CPS as their chief witness, a PC, was on annual leave.

I went through the ritual of grumbling at the CPS for a mickey-mouse cock-up that both harmed justice and cost a lot of money, and since you ask, no you cannot have an adjournment. It would be unfair to be hard on the poor young prosecutor on her feet, since the mistakes were made in an office miles away.

So we set out to hear the effective trial. The Crown called their only witness, and put in a few section 9 statements (i.e. unchallenged ones) and it was time for the defence. The solicitor rose to his feet and announced that his client would not be giving evidence (as was his right) so that was the case for the defence. As we retired we each assumed that the Crown would win, since the defendant declined to say anything in his own defence, but as we went methodically through what we had heard, and compared our notes, we decided that the prosecution was full of holes and that we could not safely convict. We trooped back in and I solemnly announced our findings to a rather surprised courtroom. So that was the end of that.

We don't see many like that.


  1. I was sitting yesterday, or should I write nearly sitting. Two cases for us, one in the morning, one the afternoon.

    The first was a common assault and criminal damage to the phones of two people, one the alleged assault victim. The defendant hadn't been told the date, he wasn't in court when it was set and the bail notice went heavens knows where. The defendant was phoned and told to come to court.

    The CPS tried to trace their two witnesses who had not arrived by 10.00. One then said she would not give evidence. The other failed to arrive and her mobile was dead when called. Collapse of case as the CPS offered no evidence.

    We tried to get the afternoon case, a drink drive special reasons argument, brought forward to the morning but no luck. We started at 14.00. Well no, actually we didn't.

    The defence had only given their expert's report to the CPS at about 13.30 and the CPS needed time to look at it. In addition the father of the defence's principal witness had phoned to tell the solicitors that his son had just been taken into hospital. The CPS had just one witness, the arresting officer. Guess what? He had not been warned for the hearing, was on duty, but was heavily involved in an incident and couldn't join us that afternoon.

    We are now always very reluctant to adjourn but this time we really had little choice.

    We did almost nothing for the entire day. What an utter waste of our time and what a waste of money for the courts. All we did was a statutory declaration and sentenced a defendant in a case moved from another court. Well I suppose it gave us something to do.

  2. Are you able to allude to what the holes were? It just seems odd you noticed them where the police, the CPS and the defence did not. Or did the defence centre around these holes?

  3. I retired two years ago, but it seems nothing has changed. The CPS were just as bad in my time. They should be charged with wasting the court's time and made to pay costs. Inefficient or downright disobedient?

    1. "Charged with wasting the court's time and made to pay costs."

      I don't know what you retired from but I do hope it wasn't the magistracy, legal profession or the police.

      If you were involved in any of them, you ought to know that the CPS (like most public services) has suffered substantial cuts in recent years and actually does a pretty decent and efficient job at bringing the vast majority of cases to a satisfactory conclusion, whatever that might be. it's not perfect but then which part of the system is?

      What the bench and public (and most poice officers) see in court is merely the final result of a co-operation (or not) between witnesses, prosecutor, police and counsel. Any one of these can throw a spanner in the works without it being clear to an outsider which it was, even if s/he thinks it is. Of course, it is easier for the bench, counsel and officers to blame the anonymous CPS lawyer rather than anyone present in court but to do so is often wrong, and the apparent anonymity often only illusory. Having sat in far too many courts waiting far too long for cases to be called on due to useless listing officers (see how easy unfair criticism is?), I have at times been embarrassed by counsel whose happiness to take the CPS's fees was matched only be thir happiness to blame that organisation for their own failings.

      Every part of the system must be open to criticism for true failings but both justices and judges should beware of misdirected criticism of those running a far from perfect but nonetheless pretty decent public service. Because let's face it, it is a vastly better than the miscarriage of justice-producing shambles we had before, and to which some appear to want to see us return.

  4. I'm glad to read you took the time to study the Crown's case - I know it is what you swear to do but it is still a relief to hear that despite the initial assumption and the temptation to save time you ensured the defendant got a fair trial

  5. About time the useless and cr*p CPS were FORCED to pay for their tardyness/incompetence etc by way of 1 month fine of their salary for the first offence, 3 months for the second and 3 years for the third, after that they permanently lose their job, i.e. you stop their pay immediately, and they have to prove their competence - if they can - before it is re-instated.
    Don't like this? Tough. That's what they do to the unemployed.

    1. Brilliant. A realistic and proportionate solution to the problem.


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