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Wiltshire judge in blast over Crown Prosecution Service delays
3:04pm Monday 30th September 2013 in News
A Wiltshire judge has blasted the Crown Prosecution Service for failing to prepare cases in time as they struggle to get to grips with new technology.
Judge Douglas Field, the resident judge at Swindon Crown Court, said there were currently 20 cases which had been delayed by paperwork not being done on time.
And he said prosecutors had not had the courtesy to inform the court that they would not be able to abide by orders for them to hand over the evidence.
The delay at the early stage of crown court proceedings mean victims, witnesses and defendants are left waiting for cases to be heard.
John Montague, the chief crown prosecutor for Wiltshire, appeared before him on Friday to explain the issues they are facing as they change their way of working.
But the judge has warned him that he was 'going to keep a close eye on things,' to ensure the issues are ironed out.
When a case is sent to the crown court the prosecution, is given six weeks to submit papers showing the evidence to both the defence and the court.
Most of the paperwork is now done on computer screens out of county in Eastleigh, Hampshire, after being moved from the Chippenham office as the county is now part of CPS Wessex.
Judge Field wanted explanations for the cases of a Swindon man accused of a violent robbery and a Warminster man charged with grievous bodily harm.
But days earlier he had expressed concern to a prosecutor about another case and two weeks before a colleague had complained about three more.
He said when he wrote to the CPS in August asking why they had not been complied with he got a reply citing staff sickness and new technology as the delay.
"In other words I was led to believe these difficulties were being overcome," he said.
"Since August 19 there have been no less than 20 cases where the papers have not been served on time. We are facing a very serious situation.”
Mr Montague apologised for the problems saying it was 'unusual' as Wiltshire was one of the best areas in the country for complying with judges' orders.
Now much of the work is centralised he said staff levels and sickness were not an issue and all the problems would be ironed out within a week or so. He said "Certainly the message has been received loud and clear."
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