Mills orders report after judge calls CPS 'dilatory' over escapee case

THE DIRECTOR of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has ordered a full internal report after “obvious” errors by the Crown Prosecution Service caused the collapse of the trial of a prisoner accused of making an airborne escape bid.

Recorder David Elfer QC told Southampton Crown Court it would be an abuse of process to try Graham Jones, who is serving a four-year sentence for possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.

In November 1993, Jones, on leave from Send Prison, Surrey, rented a light aircraft, crash-landed near Cherbourg and surrendered to French police. He denied trying to escape.

In January 1994, The Times reported that Jones “would face no charges”. But three months later the CPS notified his solicitors charges would be pressed.

During argument at Southampton this month, it emerged that, although no formal decision had been reached, a junior CPS official had told a police officer that Jones would not be prosecuted. The officer told a freelance reporter, who sold the story to The Times.

Christopher Campbell-Clyne, defending, cited a 1994 ruling by Lord Justice Staughton that to prosecute after telling someone they will not face charges was “capable of being an abuse of process”.

Elfer told the court that the CPS was also guilty of “dilatory and extraordinary behaviour” for failing to trace the French policeman whom Jones surrendered to. “I find it extraordinary that no representative from the CPS has seen fit to be in this court to explain the obvious errors. Unfairness may well have arisen.”

“I hope this case will be drawn to the attention of the DPP and that inquiries will be made to ensure this situation never arises again.”

Jones had denied taking without consent and obtaining services by deception. Not guilty verdicts were recorded.

A spokesman for the CPS says the judge's remarks had been brought to DPP Barbara Mills' attention and she had ordered a “full report”.

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Information from TBP on: Tel 0171 731 1335 or fax 0171 371 8197.