That emerged on Wednesday when a prosecutor in the case of two Preston men who are accused of drug offences was forced to appear in the Magistrate’s Court without the normal paperwork.
The court was told that the GBA would no longer entrust the police’s criminal justice unit with matters of disclosure – evidence and information to which a defendant is entitled.
Crown Advocate Chris Dunford said he was having to rely on the contents of an email from a case officer at the GBA.
Judge Graeme McKerrell said a prosecutor could not control what was happening within another agency, but he was the one who had to stand up and deal with things on a daily basis.
‘We are fortunate that we are not in a situation that has happened in England where people have walked on serious charges because a prosecutor has had nothing to say to the court, and the court has no alternative but to let them go,’ he said.
‘Such a situation has not arisen in this jurisdiction, but things are not going well.
‘I want a written explanation within seven days from the head of law enforcement as to what has happened, [in this case] why, and an assurance that it will never happen again. The timetable is a strict one.’
Judge McKerrell said that when he asked for responses in another matter recently from the head of law enforcement and the director of prosecutions [Crown Advocate Fiona Russell] he had only received one from the latter.
He said Advocate Dunford was just ‘the rabbit in the headlights’.
Ashley Collum, 23, is accused of importing the class A drug cocaine, while Adam Clayton, 19, is accused of attempting to import the drug. Both were arrested at the harbour on Sunday 2 September
For Mr Collum, Advocate Liam Roffey said he was chomping at the bit of discontent.
He had seen his client at the police station the night before.
Concerned that he had heard nothing since, he asked his secretary to contact the CJU which she had done at 12.28pm that day, but she had not got a response.
When he called the CJU himself at 2.25pm, he was told that his client was appearing in the Magistrate’s Court in five minutes’ time.
He was told there was no disclosure as the GBA were not satisfied to entrust the CJU to deal with disclosure and wanted to do it themselves.
Advocate Samuel Steel, who represented Mr Clayton, had only a general report, said Advocate Roffey.
‘It would be remiss of me not to put this matter on record.’
Judge McKerrell said it was important that these points were made.
Advocate Roffey said it was difficult as the CJU was the point of contact for advocates. This was an internal issue.
Judge McKerrell said it was one that was affecting the administering of justice.
Advocate Steel said there seemed to be an uncomfortable position between GBA and the police which had caused problems here.
It was fortunate that it had not caused too much in the way of practical problems but it was a concern nonetheless. He could not give an indication of plea as he had no disclosure.
Advocate Dunford said he had made enquiries before coming to court and was waiting for the outcome.
He was aware that a meeting had taken place about the issue the day before but his questions in relation to what had happened here were case specific.
The case against the two accused was adjourned until 24 September. No applications were made for bail and both were remanded in custody until then. The case will be committed to the Royal Court.