A busy PCMH list. The case of Regina v Neerdowell is called on before Her Honour Judge Potts-Puntahs. Mr Harry Charles Andrews prosecutes and Miss Fi Owen defends.
The Court Clerk: Are you Richard Neerdowell?
Def: Yes, miss.
The Court Clerk: Thank you, sit down.
Miss Owen: Your Honour, I appear to defend and my learned friend Mr Andrews appears on behalf of the prosecution. It is my application that the defendant not be arraigned today as the prosecution only served the papers yesterday….
HHJ: Is that right Mr Andrews?
Mr Andrews: Yes, Your Honour.
HHJ: They were ordered to be served six weeks ago Mr Andrews.
Mr Andrews: I know You Honour. It is a minor miracle they are here now.
HHJ: We’ll say no more about it Mr Andrews. Whilst the orders of the court are important, justice being done in the end is what matters. Now, Miss Owen, why can’t your client be arraigned?
Miss Owen: He has not had a conference with trial counsel….
HHJ: Miss Owen, you are here and can discuss matters with the defendant. You are here to make progress with the case, it is your duty to deal with the case expeditiously. Cases are meant to be ready for trial by the PCMH. Now, Mr Andrews, is this the proposed trial indictment?
Mr Andrews: It is the indictment that has been drafted, although the trial advocate has yet to be identified so they may take a different view.
HHJ: I quite understand, Mr Andrews. The Crown can have 28 days to notify the court who will be conducting the trial. Now, Miss Owen, any good reason why the defendant should not be arraigned?
Miss Owen: As I say those who instruct me only received the papers yesterday so the defendant hasn’t even seen them yet….
HHJ: Yes, well he knows whether he has done it or not, so the question of his plea is a simple one. Is he guilty or not?
Miss Owen: But it is not that simple. He is charged with possession of a prohibited firearm. A person in that situation does not necessarily know whether it falls within that definition or not….
HHJ: If he wants full credit he had better make it his business to know.
Miss Owen: But, with respect Your Honour, it is the sort of thing only an expert can know. And the defendant is not an expert.
HHJ: Let me make a note of that…. (speaks sotto voce whilst writing) “lethal weapon in hands of man who does not know what he is doing, potential aggravating feature” (the Judge finishes writing and looks back at counsel) Right, Mr Andrews, is there a report about the item?
Mr Andrews: Yes, Your Honour, the short form forensic expert’s report is at page 22 of the bundle….
Miss Owen: (leaps to her feet) When my learned friend says “expert” that is not accepted by the defence, Your Honour.
HHJ: Who is the expert Mr Andrews?
Mr Andrews: I understand that it is Bob Gunn, a civilian worker for the police armoury. Well, when I say civilian worker, I in fact mean cleaner. But he is quite a fan of the Dirty Harry films. And whilst it is still only the short form of his report it would appear that, in his expert opinion, it looks quite like the sort of thing that could, in a certain light, be a handgun. Whilst I accept that it is not perfect it is all we have been able to obtain in the nine months that have elapsed between this defendant’s arrest and his charge.
HHJ: I quite understand Mr Andrews. This is, after all, only one of hundreds of cases that the police and those who instruct you are dealing with. Now, Miss Owen, anything else to say on the subject of arraignment?
Miss Owen: Yes, Your Honour, it would be my submission that this is a case that should be dismissed for lack of evidence….
HHJ: That is an application I would ordinarily expect to receive in writing, Miss Owen….
Miss Owen: I know, but, as Your Honour knows, I only got the papers yesterday…
HHJ: Miss Owen you have had the papers overnight. That is more than enough time for you to consider them and draft the appropriate written applications. This really is not good enough Miss Owen. In this one instance, Miss Owen, I am prepared to deal with your application without written notice and I am against you.
Miss Owen: But….
HHJ: (raising voice) Miss Owen, I have given my ruling. It seems to me that there is adequate evidence to raise at least the suspicion that this defendant may have committed some offence of a nature which it is unnecessary to specify with any degree of precision at this moment in time. Now if only you recognised that fact then this defendant may have been given some proper advice in conference. But as he hasn’t all we can do is have him arraigned and put the public to the expense of a trial.
(The defendant is arraigned and enters a plea of Not Guilty)
HHJ: Miss Owen, where is the defence case statement?
Miss Owen: As the papers were only served yesterday statute allows a further 27 days for the provision of a defence case statement.
HHJ: That’s not very helpful. It doesn’t matter what statute says, have you not read the Criminal Procedure Rules? A defence case statement is vital to the effective conduct of a PCMH. Your consistent failures are most obstructive.
Miss Owen: But it’s not my fault, the Prosecution served the papers late.
HHJ: This is not the forum to carp, Miss Owens. This is a court with a “can do” outlook. And you are the one that “has not.” Did those who instruct you chase the papers?
Miss Owen: Yes they did, they sent two emails to the Crown and one to the court. They received no respon….
HHJ: (interrupting) But did they chase the response? Did they email every day? Did they go round to the offices of the Crown and chain themselves to the railings until they were given the papers? No, Miss Owen, no they did not. The criminal procedure rules are not a parlour game Miss Owen. Everyone needs to collaborate to convict the guilty. Now, your solicitor can provide the court with a signed, typed DCS by 4.30 today.
Miss Owen: I am not attended by a solicitor today. Since all the cuts they don’t send anyone. In fact they don’t even employ anyone they could send….
HHJ: In that case, Miss Owen, it looks like you’ll be providing a signed defence case statement by close of business. Right, now, trial dates.
Mr Andrews: I am told by the listing officer that there is a two day trial slot available in the first week of November, Your Honour. I should make it clear that is November 2015.
Miss Owen: I hold the brief on behalf of my learned friend Mr N’Lucky who is already engaged on a trial that week. But he is available the week after.
HHJ: As you have been so keen to point out, Mr N’Lucky has not had a conference and the court cannot countenance delaying this case for his availability. Justice delayed is justice denied and all that.
Mr Andrews: I should say that I don’t have witness availability today, may I have seven days liberty to vacate?
HHJ: Of course, Mr Andrews. Now the advantage of the case being heard in 2015 is that a mattress on the floor in the corner of a cell in HMP Overfill may have come free by then….
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