A JUDGE has blasted the prosecution service for its "incompetent" handling of a sex offences case which "should never" have been brought to court.

Judge Peter Ross slammed the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for pursuing allegations against a man despite there being no realistic prospect of conviction.

His damning remarks came moments after he discharged the man, who we have decided not to name, on the first day of his trial following a lack of evidence offered by the prosecution.

The CPS has since bowed down to the judge, accepting it should not have persisted with the case.

During his tirade at Oxford Crown Court on Monday, Judge Ross said: "There is only one word to use about the Crown's conduct about this case - incompetent.

"I am told these cases are given the closest care and attention. If that is the case, I dread to think what is happening to those cases that don't get the closest care and attention. To say what has happened in this case is regrettable, would be the understatement of the year.

"I'm very angry, yes. Why? Because this court is here to do justice and whatever the outcome, no one can say that justice has been done. When people don't do their jobs properly in the criminal justice system, justice is at risk."

The man previously denied two counts of sexual assault alleged to have taken place last year.

But on the morning of the trial, Judge Ross expressed his "grave concerns" to prosecutor James Keeley of the CPS' plans to continue with the trial after reading the case papers himself in "disbelief".

The former prosecution barrister criticised the CPS' refusal to call a witness initially relied upon - whose evidence would have supported the defendant's version of events.

Mr Keeley claimed the witness' evidence was served to the defence by mistake, blaming an unfortunate "administrative" error.

But Judge Ross denounced the claims, deeming the excuse "simply preposterous" and "impossible to comprehend", adding the Crown had a "duty" to call the witness.

He went on to say refusal to call the witness would have forced the defence to quiz the alleged victim on matters which would have been "humiliating" for her.

The judge added: "It is terrible that the Crown was prepared to put her into that position.

"A prosecutor, like an investigating officer, must look at all the evidence and pursue matters that lead away from the defendant, as well as matters that lead towards the defendant's guilt."

Judge Ross also said it was "wholly unfair" the man and his barrister Alexander Taylor-Camara discovered the prosecution intended to add an additional charge of attempted rape to the indictment on the morning of trial, despite having about nine months to prepare.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail, Mr Taylor-Camara said he was "taken aback" by this, claiming the case was already "pretty weak".

He said: "The CPS has to make hard decisions, even if it is not to the liking of the complainant. Merely just saying 'we are going to prosecute' does not help anyone."

The defence barrister went on to say the man had been unable to move on with his life while waiting for the trial, adding: "All of the damage has already been done. There are going to be people who are still regarding him as a sexual predator and somebody who has assaulted somebody, irrelevant of the result.

"He has had to deal with the smearing eyes and looks and rumours, in the best way he can, knowing that people are viewing him in that way and the only way he can clear his name is when the case has concluded."

A Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) spokesman said: "We acknowledge the Judge's comments and the Chief Crown Prosecutor has already spoken to the Judge in person.

"We accept that we should have made the decision to drop this case earlier in the proceedings. The case will now be reviewed by a senior prosecutor and lessons learnt from any identified failings."

In January this year, Judge Ross condemned the CPS for its dealing with a case which saw jurors acquit Jed Francis of raping a woman twice outside Oxford Magistrates' Court.

The judge deemed the case "troubling" because of "serious failures" by prosecutors, who should have realised there was no realistic prospect of conviction.

But the CPS told the Oxford Mail prosecutors were satisfied there was enough evidence to secure a conviction.

In 2014 we revealed that Thames Valley's Crown Prosecution Service was one of the worst performing in the country.

A damning report into the CPS division, which handles prosecutions at Oxfordshire’s crown and magistrates’ courts, highlighted failings that include losing too many trials, bad decision-making and problems with domestic violence cases.