Prisons walkout halts trial of Jo Cox murder accused
The trial of an alleged far-right extremist accused of murdering MP Jo Cox in a "cowardly" attack days before the EU referendum campaign was yesterday brought to a halt because of a walkout by prison officers.
Gardener Thomas Mair (53), allegedly repeatedly shot and stabbed the 41-year-old Labour politician outside her constituency surgery in Birstall, near Leeds, on June 16.
The Old Bailey trial was due to hear the first witnesses in the case, some of whom had travelled from afar to give evidence.
But trial judge Mr Justice Wilkie adjourned the case until today because Mair was not in the dock.
He said: "Members of the jury, you will observe that the defendant is not in the dock and he will not be attending court today.
"The reason for this is there are circumstances at Belmarsh prison, where he is currently residing - and I understand at prisons all over the country - which preclude bringing any prisoners to court for court hearings.
"The law is very clear that where, as here, a defendant does not attend his trial through no fault of his, then in the absence of his consent... it is rarely ever appropriate for a trial to proceed in his absence. This is particularly so in this trial where we have reached the stage where the first evidence was to be heard today."
The judge said it was with "great reluctance" that he adjourned the case for a day. He added: "What has caused this is actually disruptive of this trial because there were going to be witnesses travelling a distance to be here, but this is just something we have to deal with."
Opening the Old Bailey trial on Monday, Richard Whittam QC told jurors how mother-of-two Mrs Cox had supported the Remain campaign leading up to the referendum on June 23.
On the afternoon of Thursday, June 16, she was to hold a surgery in the library in Market Street, having visited a local school and a care home.
As she arrived, Mair launched his "cowardly" gun and knife attack, Mr Whittam said.
Mrs Cox was shot three times and suffered 15 stab wounds, jurors were told.
Mair was allegedly heard by a number of witnesses to shout repeatedly "Britain First", the court heard.
Mair denies all charges.