A JUDGE in Worcester has said the justice system is an “awful mess” after frustrated city solicitors say they waited six months to get their hands on vital paperwork.
District judge Nigel Cadbury launched a scathing attack on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) after three defence solicitors revealed they had been waiting six months for the disclosure of basic information about a single case.
A CPS spokesman has since denied that they had contributed to any delay.
Speaking before a hearing at Worcester Magistrates Court in which four people were charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm – which took place more than a year ago on 7 December 2012 – Mr Cadbury said that he did not blame the prosecutor.
He said: “It’s an awful mess. I don’t think it’s your fault or the fault of lawyers who have to make one excuse after another for the CPS.
"But the system isn’t geared up to deal with anything but the simplest of trials in the magistrates court. It is very frustrating and worrying. All of this means wasted costs.”
Solicitors were seeking disclosure of two pieces of information – the custody record for the victim and his record of interview – but had not been handed the material the day before the trial was due to start.
Solicitor Peter Gotch was told he would have to wait to listen to audio tapes after the first day of the trial rather than before it began, because disclosure was so late.
Solicitor Judith Kenney said it was as if the injured party “did not exist’”.
During a break in the hearing the prosecutor made a phone call to find that the injured party had not even been interviewed by police.
Mrs Kenney said after the hearing: “The task of defending has become more frustrating with the lack of information supplied by the CPS in time for us to prepare our cases.
"We appreciate there have been severe cuts in the CPS, but they are so pared to the bone they are incapable of supporting the work that arises as a result of the police arresting offenders.
“When there is material that should be disclosed which isn’t, it can lead to innocent people being convicted of crimes they have never committed.”
A CPS spokesman blamed IT problems and congestion in the court diary.
He added: “It is not accepted that these issues have hampered the commencement of the trial.”