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Friday, April 22, 2011

Farce of our legal system: Taxpayer left with £6m bill after drugs case is tried in court FOUR times - 22nd Apr 2011

The taxpayer is to foot an incredible £6million bill following a massive court case which was tried four times because of farcical errors and a catalogue of legal delays.

Littered with judicial complications, it has become one of Britain’s longest drug prosecutions and involved more than 10,000 pages of evidence, 500 witnesses, 14 barristers, five juries and more than 160 days in court.

While the first trial was abandoned because of ‘jury fatigue’, the third fell apart as the verdicts were being delivered after a juror was accused of making contact with one of the defendants on Facebook.

The case in question, which first came before a judge in September 2009, involved the prosecution of an alleged gang of drug dealers and a corrupt police officer in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

Almost 20 months later, it has still not been fully resolved.

To date, legal proceedings and the criminal investigation have cost an estimated £5.1million. With court security and police wages factored in, the total bill reaches almost £6 million.

The media had been prevented from publishing what happened at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court until now because of a related case involving a juror’s alleged contempt of court.

But now, that the Attorney General has been given permission to pursue a bid to have her prosecuted, the full series of costly set-backs can be revealed.

The painfully protracted process began when the first trial, lasting almost five weeks, stalled following legal argument over the disclosure of confidential information relating to police informants.

The process took so long that judge Bernard Lakin was eventually forced to start again because of ‘jury fatigue’. Jurors had been out of the courtroom for so long that it was ruled they could not be expected to remember the evidence they had already heard.

A second trial started on January 11 last year. This lasted about four weeks before the same confidential information problem re-emerged. Read More