PRISON staff brought the wrong man to court because he had a 'similar name' to another Albanian inmate who had been growing cannabis in Worcester.

Pashk Marku and Besart Qelia were both due to be sentenced for the production of cannabis in Worcester at the city's crown court on Wednesday, said in court to be a 'substantial' enterprise.

However, the hearing could not go ahead at a time when the city is already struggling to clear a Covid-19 backlog with this prison error causing further delay.

Murder trials and sentences in the city have already been stalled because of the pandemic. Courts across the country were already facing a backlog before the impact of coronavirus was felt.

Marku, 36, of no fixed abode and Qelia, 34, also of no fixed abode, had already pleaded guilty to the charge of cannabis production on a previous occasion and were due to be sentenced over videolink from HMP Hewell.

However, prison staff brought the wrong man to face the charge because he had a similar-sounding Albanian name.

Recorder Christopher Millington QC told the court: "It's not been without its hiccups, this case."

Following discussions between the judge and a prison officer in the videolink booth, Recorder Millington said: "The person you are about to produce isn't the person who should be appearing in connection with this case but a person with a similar name."

In the end the court did not have time to locate the correct inmate - Besart Qelia - for the sentencing hearing. The whole sentencing exercise had to be adjourned for over a month when one of the defendants had said he was ready to be sentenced on the last occasion.

In a further twist, it was also revealed that the court had got the second defendant's name back-to-front - recording it as Marku Pashk when his real name is Pashk Marku.

However, Daniel Oscroft, prosecuting, was given leave by Recorder Millington to amend the indictment, swapping the names over, which he did before the hearing had finished.

To complicate matters still further, the details had to be relayed to Marku via an Albanian interpreter who also appeared over videolink. Some counsel appeared in person at court and others over the live link.

Recorder Millington said: "It's quite a taxing process this."

Martin Butterworth, a defence barrister who was in court at the time, added: "It's exhausting."

Summarising the case, Recorder Millington said to Marku: "We're unable to deal with your case. The reason is that your co-accused, Mr Qelia, has not been produced by the prison staff as we expected.

"There is another matter, however. I have asked the probation service to speak to you and Mr Qelia to ask you for information about yourselves."

The sentencing hearing was adjourned until March 22 to allow the reports to be prepared.

"I hope you will co-operate in the making of that report" said Recorder Millington.

In the meantime Marku was remanded in custody.