Year delay in court case sees man fined just £1
AN ‘unconscionable’ delay when a court case was left to ‘fester’ led to a man being fined just £1 in the Magistrate’s Court.
It was revealed that Declan Glass was one of 15 cases that had been delayed for months – Judge Graeme McKerrell described it as having been left to gather dust.
A Guernsey Police spokesman said they had seen a marked increase in not guilty pleas, which had increased their workload.
They had now prioritised the remaining 14 files and confirmed none was more than a year old. They have also appointed a new member of staff to ensure trials were progressing.
Glass was on bail for more than a year after being charged, with a condition not to drink. He committed the offence in June 2017 and was finally sentenced this week.
On 26 June 2017, the 27-year-old, of 12, Route des Coutures, St Martin’s, had entered a guilty plea to behaving in a disorderly manner, after slapping a man on North Plantation at 1.55am. However, he denied resisting two police officers.
In the Magistrate’s Court Crown Advocate Chris Dunford said Glass had been released on conditional bail, and in July 2017 the file was sent to the law officers for review.
After five days they sent it back and a trial date was set for November. That was later cancelled at the request of the defence and in December the criminal justice unit had tried to contact one of the officers in the case.
Crown Advocate Dunford said CJU’s record keeping had not been good. In this case the officer had left the island and CJU decided that nothing could be done until he was contacted, so the file was just left.
In June, Crown Advocate Dunford visited the CJU office to collect 15 files as he was concerned the cases had been left so long. He described the delay as unconscionable.
‘I can only apologise for the delay,’ he said in court.
In this week’s case the plea to the resist matter was vacated and no evidence was offered, allowing the judge to dismiss it.
Defence advocate Andrew Ayres said his client had been goaded by the other man and he had been drinking.
In terms of the delay, he noted that his client had abided by his bail condition not to drink alcohol for a year, leaving him not able to drink at Christmas, New Year, his birthday and his parents’ birthdays.
Judge Graeme McKerrell said he was concerned by the delay.
‘It is clear since December 2017 the file has gone stale, gather dust and generally festered,’ he said.
He said if Crown Advocate Dunster had not rescued it, the file could have still been in the CJU office.
He fined the defendant just £1 for the offence, although he did order him to pay the victim £100 compensation.
The Guernsey Police spokesman the number of pending trials had increased from an average of five at one time to about 40.
‘While the criminal justice unit clearly cannot influence the number of defendants entering not guilty pleas, it remains committed to progressing cases through the court system as efficiently as possible and we have recently appointed a full time member of staff to co-ordinate the trial setting progress,’ he said.
‘They will be joining us next month and will liaise with all the parties concerned, including the defendant, witnesses, defence and prosecution advocates, and determining judge availability. While it can be logistically challenging to secure a date which suits everyone involved, lead times within the Guernsey court system are generally much shorter than those seen in the UK.’
He added that the pre-trial review system was helping to deal with issues before trials began and it was hoped they would cut down how long it took cases to get to court.