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Faulty alarm at Maidstone Crown Court causing chaos with serious cases adjourned


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Maidstone Crown Court has entered its second week with its enforced "open" dock policy.

A faulty alarm system has resulted in a lack of defendants in enclosed docks as there are no security staff available.

Dale Simmons died after falling from height prompting a murder investigation
Dale Simmons died after falling from height prompting a murder investigation

Experts have been brought in in an attempt to find a solution to an issue which has left guards unable to respond to any emergency and unable to escort defendants between courts and the cells.

The problem, which began last Monday, has resulted in dozens of cases, including trials, being deferred.

They include two cases which were due to be heard by newly appointed Recorder Ben Irwin who is sitting for the first time as a part-time judge.

Last week, the faulty alarm system meant three teenagers charged over the death of a 42-year-old man who fell from a cliff could not appear in court.

While staff were frantically trying to fix the problem last week the Barker Road court's roof sprang a leak after heavy rain.

Another problem judges and staff are facing is the ongoing "no-returns" industrial action by defence barristers.

It means they are working to rule rather than calling in help to cover cases at the last minute.

Last year, we reported how a shortage of criminal lawyers was putting further pressure on briefs juggling cases.

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