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Criminal Justice Unit criticised for delays

Criminal Justice Unit criticised for delays

Saturday 14 July 2018

Criminal Justice Unit criticised for delays

Saturday 14 July 2018

A defendant's case was left to “gather dust and generally fester” because of a backlog of cases at Guernsey's Criminal Justice Unit leading a Magistrate to fine him just £1 for disorderly behaviour.

Declan Glass; who appeared before Judge Graeme McKerrell earlier this week, had been waiting a year for his case to be resolved.

He had entered a guilty plea on 26 June 2017 and since then he had been on bail with a condition to not drink alcohol and to submit to breath tests.

The court was told that the prosecutor, Advocate Dunford, had “reached the end of his tether” with the CJU and that he had collected 15 files of evidence from them in regard to the case, to progress it himself. The CJU accepted responsibility for the delay.

Mr Glass, who was found guilty, was then fined just £1 and ordered to pay £100 compensation to the club bouncer he had slapped.

The court heard the delay had caused Mr Glass issues in his personal life, including finding it difficult to set up a bank account and gaining employment. Despite these challenges, he had successfully done both, for which the judge praised him.

“You have been on bail for a year and there is no suggestion you have breached your bail conditions. You have turned your life around, found steady and stable employment and I congratulate you for that.” 

Guernsey Police Station

Pictured: Guernsey Police Station

In a statement, Guernsey Police said the backlog of trials was because of an increase in the number of not guilty pleas entered over the last two years – pushing the average number of cases waiting to go to trial from five to 40. The CJU had taken steps to reduce the backlog, the statement said, and Mr Glass’ case was the longest delayed.

“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. 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.

“The court has also recently implemented a pre-trial review system, which will enable the prosecution and defence to resolve any particular legal issues that may need to be dealt with before the trial begins.  It is hoped this will further aid the timescales involved within the court process.

“The other 14 files mentioned in court are being prioritised. They have been open for varying lengths, none longer than the case heard today, and as mentioned are part of the roughly 40 trial files the Criminal Justice Unit is seeking to progress as quickly as possible.”

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