Over a third of all cases sent for trial in the Crown Court in this area were abandoned before starting, new statistics have shown.
In 2014, two hundred defendants were listed for trial in the Fermanagh and Tyrone Court Division.
Of those 74 were ‘cracked’ or ‘ineffective’ according to data disclosed by the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service. This means that 37 per cent of all trials did not take place - the third highest of all the NI court divisons.
A ‘cracked’ trial is one where, on the trial date, the defendant offers an acceptable plea or the prosecution offers no evidence.
A cracked trial requires no further trial time, but as a consequence the time allocated has been wasted and witnesses have been unnecessarily inconvenienced, impacting upon public confidence in the Criminal Justice System and upon expense.
The most common reason given for a ‘cracked’ trial was a plea of guilty on the day of contest - this occurred in 96% of cases.
However, the remaining 4% of cases - when the cases were withdrawn by the prosecution on the day of contest - was the highest in the country.
‘Ineffective’ trials are those in which the trial does not go ahead due to action (or inaction) by one or more of the prosecution, defence or the court meaning that a further listing for trial is required.
In Fermanagh and Tyrone in 2014, there were 200 defendants listed for trial with 44 cases being considered ‘ineffective’.
In a quarter of these cases it was because of the actions of the prosecution which brought about the abandonment of the trial while nearly half were because of something the defence team did.
In just under thirty percent of cases it was to do with complications of the court that the trial had to be abandoned.
The Office of the Lord Chief Justice said, “There a number of factors that a judge will consider when sentencing for a particular offence.
“Each sentence will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. In determining the appropriate sentence the judge will take into account the relevant law including the maximum sentence which the court can impose, any sentencing guidelines relevant to the offence committed, the seriousness of the offence including the harm caused, the offender’s previous convictions (if any), any aggravating and mitigating factors, and whether the offender pleaded guilty. “The court will give credit in a case for an early guilty plea, where the earlier the plea, the greater the credit. Consequently a late plea, will attract a reduced discount to the sentence.”