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Ongoing problems with mobile phone evidence: Judge blames collapse of drug trial on CPS 'cost cutting'

Ongoing problems with mobile phone evidence: Judge blames collapse of drug trial on CPS cost cutting

The trial of four suspected drug dealers and money launderers has been abandoned after a judge attacked "completely unacceptable" behaviour by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Judge Peter Murphy hit out at penny-pinching measures which had threatened to deprive the defendants of a fair trial. He also accused the CPS of "wilful, calculated and prolonged disobedience" of the rules of disclosure and directions of the court.

Lawyers believe the CPS's attitude was dictated by the cost of photocopying thousands of pages of extra evidence and the knock-on effect on the Legal Aid bill of defence lawyers examining the evidence.

The judge stressed he had no criticism of the police or counsels' conduct in the case at Blackfriars crown court. But the case "raises serious issues about the practice of the CPS where complex evidence is involved". He ordered a transcript of his ruling be passed to the court's resident judge Peter Marron to send to the "higher sources of the CPS".

The case had involved charges of conspiracy to supply class-A drugs and laundering the proceeds. A month before the trial the prosecution revealed it had new phone evidence which the judge ordered should be disclosed to the defence. But when the trial opened and the evidence had not been passed on, the judge ruled it inadmissable.

Judge Murphy said: "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. If I understand that correctly, I think it means there are financial implications in serving a large number of pages of evidence that have to be reviewed by defence counsel.

"Why the CPS should concern itself with considerations of that kind was not explained."

He added that the CPS had seemed to "fly in the face" of the accepted rules. An offer by the service to send to the defence only selected parts of the new evidence it intended to use in the trial was described by the judge as "completely unacceptable".

Judge Morgan said: "I will not permit the prosecution to adduce evidence in circumstances in which there has clearly been wilful, calculated and prolonged disobedience not only to the rules but also the specific directions given by this court."

As a result of the judge's ruling the CPS dropped the charges and the trial collapsed. A spokesman denied that decisions to halt or continue cases were based on cost considerations alone.

Source: London Evening Standard

21st January 2014
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