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Judge Adele Williams threatens Kent Police computer expert with jail

One of the county's top judges has threatened to jail a Kent Police computer expert for contempt of court.

It follows a bust-up between defence lawyers and the Maidstone-based unit over access to trial evidence.

Canterbury's presiding Judge Adele Williams had ordered that indecent images - which the forensic department had recovered from seized computers - could be examined by defence experts.

But bosses at the unit refused to hand over the material - claiming that it was Kent Police's policy only to react to written orders.

The angry judge summoned forensics analyst Christopher Crute and warned him: "When I say something in open court... that is the order!

"You do not require a scrappy piece of paper. Anyone who disobeys my order potentially puts themselves in contempt of court with the requisite punishment for that."

Mr Crute said until two years ago the department would accept the instructions from the defence "but we were prevented from doing that by the Crown Prosecution Service".

But CPS lawyer Denzil Pugh told the judge: "I might be wrong, but I cannot conceive that any of my colleagues would say anything of the sort."

The judge said the unit had delayed the trials of three serious indecent image cases, which had left her frustrated.

"I have said, time and time again, that I will not have this bureaucracy. You are building in months of delay to cases involving serious allegations.

"I am the resident judge at this court and I will not have someone clinging to bureaucracy and disobeying my order.

"Do you know what the penalty for contempt of court is? It is punishable by imprisonment.

"You disobey my orders in future at your peril. I give you a warning now, I have one more instance of this and I will hold you personally responsible and summon you, not as a witness, but summon you to answer for a contempt of court. Do I make myself clear?"

Mr Crute apologised, adding that the written instruction-only policy had been "Kent Police's... and not my personal policy".

In a statement issued today, Kent Police said: "Due to the sensitive nature of the material held by the police guidance has been issued by ACPO setting out how the defence can be provided with the indecent images or media that has been found.

"If the defence requires the material they are asked to obtain a court order allowing the disclosure and to provide an undertaking dealing with how the material will be stored.

"In this instance the material had not been disclosed to the defence as the court order had not been complied with as no undertaking had been provided.

"It is never the intention of the police to slow any criminal proceedings, our priorities lie with bringing offenders to justice thereby protecting the victims of crime and the public."

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