Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Judge rails at court delays caused by lack of forensic resources

Court cases are being held up because authorities are not putting enough resources into forensic analysis, a senior judge has warned.

Mr Justice Hart warned of further delays unless those in charge of financing the service allocate more to it.

His stark assessment came after lawyers revealed in the High Court that test results in a drugs case are not due back from the forensic science laboratory until the end of December.

He said: "There is an entirely unacceptable and unjustified, and indeed gross, delay on the part of the relevant authorities in dealing with the analysis of what is alleged to be in this instance cannabis.

"I'm not in any way seeking to attach blame to individuals concerned, but there is quite clearly a failure on the part of criminal justice authorities responsible to provide sufficient resources to enable this analysis to be carried out with appropriate expedition.

"As a result us judges are told virtually daily in the bail court there are these enormous delays and they are holding up cases at all levels, both in the Magistrates Court and the Crown Court."

Mr Justice Hart acknowledged public concern at the length of time taken to deal with criminal cases.

But he added: "What is not appreciated by the public, and certainly does not appear to be appreciated by public representatives or those responsible for allocating money for this type of service, is that unless the facilities are available and properly resourced and properly organised, the courts cannot deal with cases as rapidly as the courts would wish to do, and indeed are able to do.

"As soon as this receives appropriate attention from the relevant authorities the better."

The judge spoke out after counsel for a man facing drugs charges claimed the delay was "inexcusable".

Ryan Morgan, of Rockend Crescent, Ballymoney, Co Antrim, is accused of possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

The 23-year-old suspect is on bail but was seeking permission to return to his home town for the Auld Lammas Fair street festival later this month.

Refusing the variation application, Mr Justice Hart said: "I would be closing my eyes to reality if I did not realise there would be a huge concourse of people attending that event.

"It would be impossible for police to keep an eye on every single person who may be considered a risk of committing further offences."

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