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
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
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
"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
"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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