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Comments made trial unfair

posted 15 Mar 2009, 15:00 by Dilwoar Hussain   [ updated 15 Mar 2009, 15:09 ]
From The Times
March 16, 2009

Court of Appeal, Criminal Division
Published March 16, 2009
Regina v Cole

A trial judge’s attitude towards defence counsel, which included sending her a note headed “6 P’s” with a list of words in bold underneath saying “Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance” contributed towards preventing a defendant receiving a fair trial.

The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division (Lord Justice Latham, Mr Justice Andrew Smith and Judge Scott Gall) so held on December 17, 2008, when allowing an appeal by Dean Cole against his conviction on April 24, 2008, at Northampton Crown Court before Judge Alexander, QC, of one count of dangerous driving, contrary to section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

LORD JUSTICE LATHAM said that although the trial judge had dealt with the case expeditiously and his summing-up had been brief and commendably to the point, some of his interventions and comments towards defence counsel had caused the defendant to believe his case had not been given a fair hearing.

Those included the judge intervening to assist the two police officers who gave evidence to the detriment of the defendant, disregarding the evidence of an HGV driver who was a defence witness and interrupting the defendant when he gave evidence.

The most marked example, however, was the note, which it was assumed should be taken seriously as it gave no indication to the contrary.

That had a detrimental effect on defence counsel’s confidence and when put together with the other matters, caused the Court of Appeal to feel uncomfortable about the safety of the conviction, which they quashed, without ordering a retrial.