Beds, Herts & Bucks

Christmas party 'caused Bedfordshire court case delay'

A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) party caused "lamentable" delays which means a dangerous driving trial cannot go ahead, an Appeal Court judge has ruled.

Robert Dales, 21, of St Albans, was convicted in July of causing death by careless driving and was to face a re-trial for a separate charge.

Lord Justice Jackson criticised the lack of communication between courts and the CPS.

The court heard a crucial legal deadline was missed by the CPS.

Lord Justice Jackson said the deadline "coincided with a 'team seasonal event', which is a euphemism for a Christmas Party".

"In our view matters of that nature cannot possibly excuse this," he added.

Dales, of Faircross Way was sent to a young offenders institution for eight months, later reduced to six months, at St Albans Crown Court in July 2010.

He had admitted causing the death of 15-year-old Rachel Deradour by careless driving on the A4147 between St Albans and Hemel Hempstead in April 2009.

'Series of failures'

He had denied a separate count of dangerous driving, but was convicted by a jury. The conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in October 2010.

Dales was due to be re-tried on the charge, allegedly committed in December 2009 while on bail for causing Rachel's death.

However, after a "series of failures" on the part of the CPS at St Albans and Luton Crown Courts, Dales has now escaped the prospect of a re-trial, the Court of Appeal heard.

An email about Dales' case was sent between the two courts on 9 November last year, but was not followed up until January 2010, the court heard.

Anne Evans, for the Crown, asked the Appeal Court to extend time so that Dales could be re-arraigned, saying it was "in the interests of justice" that he be tried again.

But Lord Justice Jackson said the CPS had failed to show that they had treated the case "with due diligence and expedition", and dismissed the application. He also ordered that Dales be acquitted on the charge.

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