Trial halted after admin problem

A TRIAL in Ipswich was thrown into farce when lawyers realised they would not finish the hearing in the allotted time.

A TRIAL in Ipswich was thrown into farce when lawyers realised they would not finish the hearing in the allotted time.

Magistrates are fuming today after the blooper was uncovered only when legal teams were preparing to open the case.

They were forced to adjourn proceedings at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court for three months because they could not risk it being part-heard.

The next available date when all parties could return to complete the hearing was too far away.

One lawyer, Robert Askey, had travelled from Cheshire especially for the case, which had been adjourned twice previously, and several police officers had also turned up to give evidence.

The trial costs are expected to go up by �1,000 as a result.

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Bunty Hunt, chairman of the magistrates, apologised for wasting people's time.

She said: “The whole thing is totally unsatisfactory. This is unacceptable to all concerned, but there is nothing else to be done but adjourn the case.”

It emerged that the length of the trial had not been properly discussed because a pleas and case management hearing was never held. Magistrates also questioned why court staff had not allowed more time for the hearing.

A slot had been booked at 2.15pm on Wednesday to hear a civil application by the British Transport Police (BTP) to impose a banning order on a football fan.

Gavin Lankester, 31, of Bredfield Close, Felixstowe, is contesting allegations of disorderly conduct between August 1998 and October 2007.

Mr Askey, who was acting for the BTP, had estimated the trial would take around two hours.

But Mike Stephenson, defending Lankester, reckoned it would take twice as long, but said he could not stay beyond 5.15pm.

Magistrates could not risk the trial being part-heard because the next available date where all parties could attend was in October so they called it off.

The trial has been re-arranged for July 27, when a different lawyer will act for the BTP because Mr Askey cannot make it.

What do you make of the mix-up? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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