CPS `not told of court fiasco'

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The Independent Online
The Crown Prosecution Service was never officially notified of the Boxing Day magistrates' court sitting at which 31 defendants walked free after a prosecutor failed to turn up, an internal inquiry concluded yesterday.

However, the agency fell short of putting the blame on the court, admitting the clerk had put up a notice in the CPS room at the court building but that had been overlooked.

The 31, facing charges ranging from supplying drugs to burglary, were discharged after the magistrate, Michael Johnstone, ordered the charges to be dropped at Old Street magistrates' court in central London.

Yesterday, the branch prosecutor for Camberwell, south London, Andrew Hadik, went to the court "out of courtesy" and issued a statement.

He said a senior official, Graham Etherington, based at the CPS headquarters, would talk to all the agencies involved in the criminal justice system before compiling his report.

Later, a CPS spokeswoman said the report had found the organisation had not received notification the court was sitting.

"We have no record of being officially notified at our office that there was a court sitting at Old Street on Boxing Day," she said.

"The clerk had put a notice up in the CPS room at the court, but that was overlooked. The CPS takes its responsibility very seriously and CPS lawyers did appear at every other court in England and Wales which sat that day."

No one was available for comment from either Old Street magistrates' court or the Inner London Magistrates' Courts Service.