CCTV blunder leads to graffiti trial’s collapse

Charlie Silver

Charlie Silver

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Crime Reporter, also covering Barton and Wood Farm. Call me on (01865) 425427

A CONVICTED vandal accused of graffiti damage worth £4,000 has walked free from court, after prosecutors failed to produce evidence against him.

Charlie Silver was due to face trial at Oxford Magistrates’ Court yesterday accused of spray-painting graffiti tags on top of the city’s Clarendon Centre.

But the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) did not bring a working copy of key CCTV footage from the centre and the case collapsed.

The blunder comes after an inspection report published in February revealed the Thames Valley CPS unit was one of the worst performing in the country.

And two cases – one an alleged assault – were dropped last month when a CPS lawyer did not turn up to court on time.

Silver, 23, had previously been fined £100 in 2012 after tagging the words “Soak” and “BWS!” in Cowley Road.

He was due to stand trial yesterday accused of spray-paint vandalism high-up on the Clarendon Centre in March.

Silver was also facing a charge of going equipped to cause criminal damage, after police allegedly found him with spray cans in Oxford in January.

But Warwick Clarke, defending Silver, said the CPS had not provided him with the copies of CCTV evidence he had requested ahead of the trial.

The court was also told that CCTV from Oxford City Council was only provided to the defence yesterday.

Mr Clarke said: “These matters bring criminal proceedings into disrepute.

“My client is here still not knowing the evidence against him on the day of the trial.”

Magistrate Lin Holford, refusing to adjourn the case to give the CPS more time, said: “There is no fault on the part of the defence. The CPS are at fault for not providing a working disc that is key evidence for the defence within the disclosure time scale.”

She also said the CPS had twice sent the defence copies of another disc – of CCTV from Kebab Kid in Gloucester Green – adding: “Given these factors and the nature of the allegations it is not in the interests of justice to adjourn.”

Silver had admitted possession of cannabis after his arrest in January and was fined £75 and told to pay £85 costs and £20 victims’ surcharge.

In mitigation his lawyer had said he was a creative artist, who wanted to get work designing record covers.

Thames Valley Police last night refused to comment, but speaking after the hearing, city councillor for Jericho and Osney Susanna Pressel said: “The police will be horrified. They have worked so hard.

“The public is owed an apology for this terrible mistake. I hope someone will be disciplined.”

Thames and Chiltern CPS spokeswoman Louise Rosher last night said the CCTV disc had failed to work due to an unidentified error.

She said 0.07 per cent of prosecutions at Oxford Magistrates’ Court had failed due to the CPS not being ready between June last year and May this year.

She said: “We would like to assure the public that all such cases are reviewed and lessons are learned.”


 

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