Judge laments crown’s breach of court order

| 09/03/2014

(CNS): The investigating officer and the prosecution came in for some harsh criticism on Friday from a Grand Court judge when he heard that a defendant had been waiting for more than a year to find out the details of serious charges laid against him. Justice Charles Quin said the defendant and his client faced a “complete black hole” and it was “unacceptable” that there was no explanation about the crown’s failure to comply with a court order he had made. Defence attorney Guy Dilliway-Parry, of Priestley’s, told the court that his client, Walter Jordan McLaughlin, had been facing charges of attempted rape for over a year without being provided with the statement from his accuser or any details of the alleged crime.

The lawyer said that as the crown had breached a court order to make the fundamental disclosure, he asked the judge to tell the crown they had just one more week to disclose otherwise they would not be allowed to rely on the complainant’s statement as evidence against his client.

The judge fell short of such a measure, which would have essentially closed down the case, but told the crown they only had seven more days. Since the trial was not until August, he said, the defence would still have time to deal with the allegations once they knew what they were.

The judge was clearly frustrated by the prosecution's lack of explanation, as the crown counsel for the case was away and had left word that the investigating officer was due to supply the information before the deadline. However, he had failed to do so and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions had been unable to track down the officer before the court appearance.

Dilliway-Parry described the situation as a “farce”, when he said the only information coming from the crown about the case was a video recording of the complaint's statement, which was in Spanish, along with a short translated description by the police officer. When he continued to press for more, he had been told he would find out when the complainant gave evidence at trial. “This is utterly unacceptable,” the lawyer said.

The judge warned the prosecutors that the ODPP could not just “ignore court orders willynilly”, and agreed with the defence that for an order to be made by the court and then for nothing to happen “was unacceptable”.

Justice Quin urged the police and prosecutors to communicate properly and work together on cases in order that these ongoing problems of disclosure could be addressed.

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Category: Crime

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