A judge has warned the Crown Prosecution Service that he will not tolerate criticisms of defence barristers who step in at the last minute to defend cases. 

Barrister holds wig

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It follows a year when - after a record number of trials had been aborted on the day due to a shortage of prosecution barristers - barristers were regularly being drafted in by the CPS at the last minute to help plug the gaps in their workforce.

Judge Neil Millard was about to start a sexual offences trial at Reading Crown Court on Tuesday when he made the remarks. The judge heard that defence barrister David Dainty had been instructed in the case at 4pm the previous afternoon and the beginning of the trial may need to delay so he could prepare.

Liam Gregory, for the CPS, asked the judge to begin the trial straight away, as a key witness was not going to remain available. Gregory said he had been instructed to say Dainty 'should have exercised caution before accepting instructions on a case' at the last minute.

But the judge interrupted the submission to say: 'I am not going to have criticism of Mr Dainty. That is not going to take you anywhere.'

The prosecutor emphasised he was merely conveying what he had been required to submit to the judge by the CPS.

The judge said it was possible to criticise instructing solicitors or previous counsel in the case, but added 'I am not going to have it be laid at Mr Dainty’s feet'.

'I understand your instructions', he told Gregory. 'You can feed it back to those who instruct you it does not hold any weight in this court. Those kind of representations get them nowhere. That is not a criticism of you,'  Millard told the prosecuting barrister.

The judge also said for the benefit of the defendant, 'I make it abundantly clear, the defendant has the benefit of very experienced counsel, who at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon tried to assist.'


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