A District Judge had acted unreasonably in holding an immediate trial after an interlocutory hearing during which the Crown accepted failing to follow previous directions
On the 28th August 2013 at Hendon Magistrates' Court before District Judge Brennan, Dariusz Radziwilowicz and Adam Wanas entered pleas of not guilty to section 4A Public Order Act Offence 1986. Mr Radziwilowicz also pleaded not guilty to a further offence, namely a racially aggravated section 5 Public Order Act Offence. Appearing for the Crown that day was an associate prosecutor who did not have the rights of audience to conduct a trial. The matter had been listed following an earlier plea hearing where the police summary had been served and the matter was adjourned to enable the Crown Prosecution Service to obtain witness statements and to review the charges.
It transpired at that hearing, on the 28th of August, that the witness statements were still not available and the case had not been reviewed. In light of Criminal Procedure Rules 2013 and the spirit of the protocol " Stop Delaying Justice" the District Judge took pleas and the defendants entered not guilty pleas. The defendants' solicitors then invited the court to proceed to trial immediately, and both defendants waived their rights to disclosure of unused material.
The prosecutor objected on the ground that he did not have the standing to conduct a trial and he did not have any evidence, written or oral, on which to proceed. The District Judge refused the adjournment and expressed the case "as being inimical to the interests of justice". No evidence was offered and the charges were dismissed. The DPP appealed the decision by way of case stated on the basis that the District Judge's actions were unreasonable.
The District Judge in explaining his reasoning to refuse the adjournment stated that he applied the Criminal Procedure Rules, Statue and the Case Law, namely DPP v Picton (2006) EWHC 1108 (Admin) and Visvarathnam v Brent Magistrates' Court (2009) EWHC 2017 (Admin). He took into account the potential effect of future ineffective dates as the Crown did not have their witness dates to avoid and he was not able to case manage as he did not know how long each witness would be. He further referred to the failings by the Crown to review the case to ascertain whether the charges were correct and the failure of not providing witness statements. He took the robust view that the,
"prosecution's failures and omissions were unreasonable, contumelious and disrespectful. He also accepted that the effect of his decision was disciplinarian".
Held: The District Judge's actions were unreasonable. The High Court disregarded the references to the cases of Picton and Visvaratnam as these cases involved an adjournment for a hearing that was listed as a trial. Thus in each case the prosecution were aware of the need to produce evidence at the hearing and had failed to do so.
The Court distinguished this case on the basis that there was no obligation on the prosecution to have their witnesses available and the key point was whether the prosecution had enough material to enable the case to advance sufficiently, without the need for a further interlocutory hearing. The District Judge knew that the prosecutor was not authorised to conduct trials and his decision was purely disciplinary.
Also, in the context of this case, those who complained about the conduct of the defendants were deprived the opportunity to pursue the matter and the case was brought to a premature and abrupt end, requiring the prosecution to proceed in a way and at a time that was entirely unjustified.
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