Belfast Telegraph

Taxpayers’ £16,000 bill after court case farce

By Adrian Rutherford

A bungled court case against three men — which collapsed after prosecutors failed to turn up — has left the taxpayer facing a £16,000 bill.

All three walked free from Enniskillen courthouse, where they were facing charges of assault following a republican parade in the border village of Roslea, because of a Public Prosecution Service blunder.

Now it has emerged that the collapsed case led to £16,278 being wasted.

It is the latest in a series of controversies involving the PPS, and comes days after this newspaper revealed how prosecuting a mother accused of stealing shirts worth £5 cost over £13,000.

Details of the latest case were released following an Assembly question by DUP peer Lord Morrow.

He said it was “outrageous” that so much money had been wasted on a collapsed case.

The three men denied charges of assaulting police — one was further charged with being disorderly — during a Republican Sinn Fein commemoration in April 2009.

The case was listed for trial on at least two occasions and, due to the number of witnesses involved, special courts were arranged to hear the evidence.

However, on each occasion the trial failed to open. Defence barristers tried to have the charges thrown out but the PPS pressed ahead.

Then, on February 4, everything seemed to be in place — except no-one from the PPS turned up.

When a prosecutor eventually arrived he was not familiar with the case and offered no evidence, and the charges were dismissed.

The final bill included £3,268 for the PSNI prosecution, £1,355 in court fees and £10,755 in legal aid costs.

Lord Morrow, who is MLA for Fermanagh/South Tyrone, said it was another disgraceful waste of public money.

“We are supposed to be living in austere times, and here we have the PPS coming up with an astounding figure wasted on a case that went absolutely nowhere,” he said.

A PPS spokesperson said the organisation “regretted” the administrative error which led to the case being dismissed.

“It should be noted that the PPS conducts over 40,000 prosecutions in the magistrates court each year,” she said.

“An internal PPS review has been carried out resulting in the putting in place of additional arrangements designed to address the issue.”

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