Justice does NOT move quickly

At the start of the year, I dealt with a client who was accused of an affray.  The case was considered too serious for the magistrates so the bench directed that it be committed for trial at the Crown Court.  The defendant was remanded in custody for his own protection (he was considered to be at high risk of self-harm).

For reasons known only to the CPS, they took the view that as the allegation was so serious they would reduce the charge to common assault thus reducing the maximum possible sentence and meaning that the case could now only be heard in the magistrates' court.  A trial date was set for the end of February.

Yesterday the case came before the court.  By now the client had been assessed by two psychiatrists and deemed to have no mental health problems.  Having calmed down a lot in three weeks since I last saw him he no longer appeared to be at risk of self-harm and was hoping to be released to await trial.

The judge spoke to the list office and we were offered a trial this morning - that is to say yesterday morning the court scheduled a trial to take place this morning so 24-hours later.  The prosecution were asked to confirm that they could proceed with 24-hours notice and they said that there would be no problems with such short notice.

This morning one of my colleagues arrived to conduct the trial only to find the CPS now complaining about the short notice.  Despite their assurances yesterday that they could definately go ahead, this morning they complain that 24-hours is insufficient time to get witnesses to travel the half-mile to court for a trial that will take less than 2-hours from start to finish - the key prosecution witness would probably be giving evidence for between 20 - 30 minutes, so would probably have been released by 10.45am at the latest.

Because of this the trial didn't go ahead and the defendant was again remanded into custody; I have to say I think incorrectly.

The sad truth is that once the case is over the defendant will be released immediately regardless of whether he is convicted or acquitted because of the time that has already been served!

Even when we try to move quickly things rarely work out.


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