The Court of Appeal today allowed the lord chancellor to intervene in a challenge to the decision to stay a very high cost case (VHCC) prosecution hit by protest action over cuts to legal aid. 

Sir Brian Leveson (pictured), sitting with Lords Justice Treacy and Davis, agreed to allow the last-minute intervention but refused the lord chancellor permission to introduce new evidence. 

Anthony Peto QC, appearing for the lord chancellor, said that Chris Grayling is 'entirely neutral' as to the outcome of the appeal.

The court is hearing an appeal by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) against a decision by His Honour Judge Leonard earlier this month to stay the 'Operation Cotton' prosecution against five defendants.

The FCA argues that the stay should be reversed as sufficient Public Defender Service advocates would be available next January and it is in the public interest that the case is adjourned until then. 

The FCA also argues that the Crown court should have opted for an adjournment as a lesser remedy than a stay. 

Automatic reporting restrictions under S71 of the 2003 Criminal Justice Act were lifted after a request by the press. Judgment has been reserved.