The Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence in a case of alleged conspiracy to supply class A drugs after the judge refused a prosecution application to adduce new evidence on the second day of the trial.
Sitting at Blackfriars Crown Court, His Honour Judge Peter Murphy said the CPS’s application to serve thousands of pages of used material was ‘completely unacceptable’.
The CPS had been directed to serve the material and notify the defence whether it would form part of the used or unused evidence more than two months prior to the trial.
Directing no criticism at trial counsel or the police in the case, Murphy said the CPS had shown ‘wilful, calculated and prolonged disobedience’, not only to the rules but to the specific direction given by the court.
‘What is disturbing about this, is that I was told very candidly that the application by the Crown was being made primarily on financial grounds,’ said Murphy.
‘If I am understanding that correctly, I think it means that there are financial implications in serving a large number of pages of evidence that then have to be reviewed by defence counsel.’
Murphy noted: ‘Why the CPS should concern itself with considerations of that kind was not explained, although it certainly calls for some explanation.’
He said: ‘Whether this, or any other financial considerations are involved, it is in my view quite wrong for such considerations to stand in the way of the Crown properly complying with its disclosure obligations.’
Disclosure rules, said Murphy, are not intended to impose ‘bureaucratic regulation’ on trial preparation, but to ensure fairness, in that the defence knows the case it is expected to meet in advance of the trial.
Murphy said the case – R v Renata Andrews and Others, raises serious issues about the practice of the CPS in cases where complex evidence is involved.
The CPS said that it does not make a decision to discontinue or proceed with a case based on cost considerations alone.
'The Code for Crown Prosecutors, which lays out the principles according to which every decision to bring a prosecution must be made, states that factors relevant to the public interest of any prosecution include consideration of the cost to the CPS and the wider criminal justice system where it could be regarded as excessive when weighed against any likely penalty. This however is never a deciding factor on its own.
'The CPS takes judge Peter Murphy’s comments extremely seriously and it is evident that there were problems in the way disclosure was handled in this case. Accordingly, we are reviewing the case to see what lessons can be learned from it for the future.'
Read the full transcript.