Attempted Murder Acquittal – September 2020
In one of the few trials to be listed in the country during the Covid epidemic, I represented Mr O who was accused of attempted murder and offences under the Firearms Act 1968. It was alleged that Mr O and two others tried to kill a man by shooting him with pump-action shotguns.
The prosecution served expert DNA evidence shortly before the trial. After legal argument, I persuaded the judge that the evidence had come too late in the day and it would be unfair for the prosecution to be allowed to use it. This ruling in my client’s favour very much weakened the prosecution’s case.
The case was unusual in that the complainant, who had been wounded to the face, said he was mistaken when he identified Mr O as one of the armed men. The complainant was in prison when the trial was heard and refused to leave his cell to give evidence. Other eye-witnesses were reluctant to come to court.
The prosecution made a number of applications to the judge in an attempt to get the various witnesses to court. They also applied to read the evidence to the jury in the absence of the witnesses. After 4 days of legal argument the judge ruled in favour of the defence. As a result the prosecution had to offer no evidence. The client was found not guilty of all charges.
With the Covid pandemic affecting the availability and willingness of witnesses to attend court, this sort of scenario will happen more and more, and barristers will need a good working knowledge of the law of hearsay to prevent the prosecution acting unfairly.