Witness absenteeism at fault says CPS

ALMOST half the number of crown court cases in Suffolk which collapsed through lack of evidence last year were due to witnesses not turning up at court, it has emerged.

ALMOST half the number of crown court cases in Suffolk which collapsed through lack of evidence last year were due to witnesses not turning up at court, it has emerged.

Suffolk's Chief Prosecutor Chris Yule said the problem was a drain on the public purse and wasted the time of police officers and prosecutors.

Figures released by Suffolk's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) revealed 46 per cent of "dropped" crown court cases in 2001-2002 were the result of a witness not turning up at a trial.

Mr Yule said the trend had increased compared to 2000-2001, and added it was a national problem, particularly in towns in other parts of the country where levels of street crime are high.

"It's clear even in Suffolk that of the cases that are dropped, a substantial proportion relate to witnesses failing to give their evidence," he said.

"In magistrates courts this is a particular problem in cases of domestic violence and we are working closely with the Domestic Violence Forum to ensure that the criminal justice system deals properly with such victims.

Most Read

"Every case that is taken by the Crown Prosecution Service having been investigated by the police is funded by the public purse and it's therefore important particularly when the cases get to the crown court where court time is expensive that we have as few dropped cases as possible."

In 2001-2002, Suffolk's Crown Prosecution Service took on 949 crown court cases.

Of this number, 50 failed before being brought to a conclusion – 23 of which were due to a witness failing to give evidence in court without presenting a valid medical reason.

The problem has increased since 2000-2001, where 20 crown court cases failed because a witness did not give evidence out of a total of 63 "dropped" cases.

The total number of dropped cases in the crown court fell from 1,058 in 2000-2001 to 949 in 2001-2002.

Chris Sadler, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said the problem of witnesses not attending court left officers feeling dejected.

"It can be very frustrating as bringing any person to court these days is a very long winded and involved process," he said.

"Officers quite often have their duties changed at short notice so they are able to attend court and have to make alternative plans for their holidays.

"The bulk of police officers do not work 9am to 5pm and their weekends might be on a Tuesday and Wednesday when they have to attend court."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter