Rioters escape trial because of time rule

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The Independent Online

Seven dangerous prisoners escaped punishment yesterday for their alleged involvement in a jail riot after their lawyers used new human rights laws to have the case dismissed.

Seven dangerous prisoners escaped punishment yesterday for their alleged involvement in a jail riot after their lawyers used new human rights laws to have the case dismissed.

A judge at Newcastle Crown Court accepted that a delay of nearly three years in bringing the case to a trial was a breach of their right to have the matter heard in a "reasonable time".

It is the first time that article six of the Human Rights Act has been used in this way since it was introduced last October. The Crown Prosecution Service said last night it would be reviewing the judgment to see if other cases were in danger of being thrown out.

Five prison officers and six prisoners were injured in the riot at Full Sutton high-security prison, near York, in April 1998. The violence was one of the worst disturbances at a British prison in recent years.

More than 30 prisonersbarricaded themselves into a wing of the jail before attacking members of staff and causing widespread damage.

Seven of the 32 alleged rioters were due to face criminal charges yesterday but Judge Timothy Hewitt ruled that to proceed with the trial would be "contrary" to section six of the Act.

Neil Gafney, Ian Jennings, Antonio Daniels, Paul Francis, Paul Dewer, Darren Price and Stephen Cutter were cleared of violent disorder.