SCATHING criticism of delays in the legal process dealing with Stratford’s so-called “Costa Coffee crash” was voiced this week by Ron Ball, Warwickshire’s police and crime commissioner.
He said that both the public and the affected parties were being poorly served by what he called “the system”.
At Birmingham Crown Court last Friday an adjourned hearing in the case of dangerous driving against former magistrate Alan Marks was further adjourned until 21st February next year because the defence had not been provided with key information by the prosecution.
The case relates to an incident in the centre of Stratford on 23rd April last year when a car driven by Mr Marks mounted the pavement by the Costa Coffee shop at Market Cross.
Several people were injured and required hospital treatment, including Mr Marks himself, who was a Warwickshire magistrate at the time.
After an investigation lasting several months Warwickshire Police announced that there would be no prosecution because of “insufficient evidence”. That announcement came about seven months after the incident.
The decision not to prosecute prompted Mr Ball, who had just been elected as Warwickshire’s first police and crime commissioner, to request a review of the case because of public concern.
Following a second investigation, which also took several months, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that Mr Marks was being charged with dangerous driving.
In early summer he was committed by magistrates in Solihull to face trial at Birmingham Crown Court.
The first hearing was fixed for 27th September. Another hearing, described as a case management and plea hearing, was scheduled for 4th November, but this was adjourned until last Friday, 29th November.
However, this latest hearing was unable to proceed as planned because of the lack of necessary documentation.
The delay has angered Mr Ball. In a statement to the Herald this week the police commissioner declared: “It is astonishing to me that over 18 months after the so called Costa Coffee crash in Stratford in April 2012 we appear to be little nearer a resolution of the case.
Ron Ball, Warwickshire's Police and Crime Commissioner.
"The latest delay is an adjournment from Friday until February of next year, and it is far from clear that the case will be heard then.
"No-one within ‘the system’ seems overly concerned about delay being piled on top of delay. If this case ever does get heard it may well be over two years after the original event—and we are dealing with a potential motoring offence here, not a complex fraud case.
"In my view the public and the affected parties are being extremely poorly served by ‘the system’ in this case.”
Yesterday (Wednesday) a spokesman for West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told the Herald: “The case against Alan Marks had to be adjourned on 29th November 2013 as the judge felt that the prosecution’s response to the defence’s skeleton argument did not deal with some of their disclosure requests, namely, information from the initial decision which was made by the police not to prosecute Mr Marks.
"Therefore, the case had to be adjourned in order for the CPS to contact Warwickshire Police and direct them to provide a full disclosure of all their files and any other relevant information relating to their original decision on this matter.
“Once received, a decision will be taken on what falls to be disclosed to Mr Marks’s defence team.”
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