The trial of a 60-year-old man at Skegness Magistrates’ Court on allegations of assault, threatening behaviour and damage in Louth, has collapsed because police lost a vital piece of evidence.
David Edward Fox of Leys Lane in Skipsea, Driffield, had denied allegations that he assaulted a woman by beating, that he used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards her, and also that he damaged a Ford Transit van during the incident in Watts Lane, Louth, on January 16 this year.
Gordon Holt, for Fox, told the magistrates that because CCTV video footage of the incident had been lost by the police, there had been an abuse of process and Fox could not get a fair trial.
He said that the witnesses who were being called to give evidence, including the complainant, were all connected and the statements they had made had been that Fox punched the woman whereas Fox said that all he did was to push her.
Mr Holt said that a resume of the CCTV footage provided by the police said it showed that Fox did in fact only push her and not punch her.
He said this was not just a question of fact, but as the same witnesses would give evidence relating to the other allegations it also affected the correctness of the statements they had made regarding these other charges.
“There is a duty for the police to seize and maintain relevant material and to disclose any material which might assist the defence,” he said.
“This has not happened in this case because the police have lost the CCTV footage,” he added. “This was a serious error.”
Mr Holt said the police had seen the video footage and had questioned Fox about it.
“This is the best evidence the court could have as it shows the defendant’s account is correct,” he said.
“If the witnesses’ story is inconsistent with the CCTV footage, this would also affect their credibility in the other allegations.
“To go ahead would be unfair and unjust,” he added.
James Hett, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said that the power of the magistrates to agree there had been an abuse of process should only be used in exceptional circumstances.
“A person who watches the CCTV footage can give evidence on what they saw, even though the footage itself is no longer available,” he said. “And the defendant himself, who has been shown the footage, could also give evidence of what he saw on it.”
However, the magistrates ruled that there had been an abuse of process and that there had been negligence by the police which would have resulted in an unfair trial.
“It would be grossly unfair to proceed without the CCTV footage,” they ruled.
All charges were therefore dismissed.