Lead cop warned by judge to attend trial
(CNS): A Grand Court judge expressed his concern on Monday that a man in custody had to have his trial postponed because the lead police officer in the case notified the court at the last minute that she was unable to attend. Robert Aaron Crawford (19), who is facing charges of possession of an unlicensed firearm and was expecting his judge-alone trial to begin on Monday 27 August, will now have to remain in Northward on remand until 1 October when the trial has been rescheduled. Justice Charles Quin said the officer, who had known about the trial for ten weeks, should not have left it until the eleventh hour to announce she would not be there and warned that this could not happen again.
Crawford’s attorney, Nick Hoffman, expressed his concern about the situation because the defence requires the opportunity to cross examine the senior officer, who is a key witness in the case, and said how unfair it was for his client, who had been told on Friday evening that a key witness in has trial, due to start Monday morning, would not be available.
The lawyer said the prosecuting attorney was not at fault since he had notified the defence as soon as she was aware the officer would not be attending as she was reportedly overseas.
However, Hoffman pointed to the officer’s position because she had known about the trial date for well over two months but she had left it until the last minute to inform those concerned. The lawyer said that the there was no choice but to adjourn the case, and while his client had agreed to the postponement, it was not something he had either wanted or caused.
Crawford is currently on remand at HMP Northward, where he has been since his arrest last November. “The RCIPS should take these matters far more seriously” when defendants are in custody, Hoffman said.
Justice Quin said he was sympathetic to Hoffman’s position and that of his client, who has been in custody since last year. The judge said the officer in charge of the case should be at trial from the start and remain throughout and that it was unsatisfactory for the court to be told at the eleventh hour that a police witness would not be attending. He pointed out that not only was the court and the defendant who were inconvenienced but the other civilian witnesses who were also present and ready to give evidence as well. The judge made it clear that he hoped he would not to see a repeat of the situation.
The judge’s comments come in the wake of several more made by his fellow judge, Justice Alex Henderson, who has noted that the postponements and continued long periods that defendants spend waiting for trials will cause the prosecution significant problems once the bill of rights is implemented in November. He has warned on numerous occasions that the delay in justice may result in cases being lost before they even start if the course of justice takes too long.
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