A judge summoned a senior crown prosecutor to court after the CPS shrugged off an order to release unblurred CCTV footage. 

Judge Michael Gledhill QC had blasted as ‘completely ludicrous’ a four-hour hold up in starting the trial of alleged Barton brawler Andee Williams late last year.

His comments can now be reported – six months later – after reporting restrictions were lifted when Williams, 50, pleaded guilty this week to affray and knife possession. Two other people, including convicted killer Lewis Brown, will be sentenced alongside Williams next month for their involvement with the affray on June 2 last year.

Last November, lawyers for the Crown Prosecution Service insisted that a white car’s numberplate be blurred out before a video, which allegedly showed Williams brandishing a machete in Barton, could be released to the defendant’s barristers.

READ MORE: Man admits taking part in Barton affray

The CPS office lawyer suggested the blurring was required in order to comply with data protection regulations.  

But that decision proved farcical when, after a four-hour hold-up, another camera angle was played to Oxford Crown Court that showed the unblurred plate of a mobile disco DJ’s van parked next to the white car. 

“We’ve been arguing over something completely ludicrous, a large waste of taxpayer’s money when we’ve got a huge backlog of cases [in the criminal courts],” Judge Gledhill told prosecuting barrister Efstathios Divaris. 

Mr Divaris explained the CPS district crown prosecutor’s reasoning for not releasing the un-blurred video, as the judge had ordered, citing concerns that it needed to be compliant with the General Data Protection Regulations.

Judge Gledhill said: “If the judge makes an order – even if he’s erred [in law] – the answer is not to disobey the order, it is to fully explain why the judge has erred.”  

The district crown prosecutor could not attend the crown court as he had been ordered to self-isolate, the judge was told.  

READ MORE: Lewis Brown jailed for Barton manslaughter

However, later in the week that lawyer’s boss – a senior crown prosecutor – appeared in court in person to apologise to Judge Gledhill and explain that his order for the unredacted footage to be released had been misunderstood. 

Her representations to the judge were heard behind closed doors. However, in a judgement delivered in open court following an application from the Oxford Mail, Judge Gledhill said he had been assured the situation would ‘not happen in the future’. 

He explained he had ordered the disclosure of the unpixellated footage in case anyone had been in the white car, had seen the brawl and the numberplate could be used to trace the registered owner.  

“As it transpired, when the [pixelated] material was uploaded it is perfectly obvious the vehicle was unoccupied,” he said.  

“As a result of the limited information I had available I took the view it was in the interest of justice and in order to expedite the beginning of this trial I...made an order ordering the uploading of the material without any pixilation.  

“Unfortunately, that order was not complied with. It may very well be those receiving the information from Mr Divaris, who prosecutes this case, did not understand that I was in fact making an order.  

“I was told the reason for the pixilation was GDPR but as it transpired the white van parked adjacent to the vehicle had the name of its company on the side of the vehicle, which was easily read by looking at the video, and indeed the registration number on that van was also apparent. 

“Today I have asked for the senior crown prosecutor to come along to explain to me how this comes about.  

“She’s explained to me that the application of the data protection regulation was in fact not complied with in the preparation of this case because those detail on the white van should not have been disclosed but should have been pixelated.”  

Oxford Mail: Oxford Crown Court file image Picture: ED NIXOxford Crown Court file image Picture: ED NIX

The judge said the senior crown prosecutor accepted that the CPS should have made ‘proper representations’ explaining why his order was disobeyed.  

“I have come to the conclusion it was not a deliberate breach of the court order. It was a regrettable misunderstanding. I have accepted the explanation of the CPS and I am assured this situation will not happen in the future.”  

The trial later had to be abandoned. Williams, of Westlands Drive, Oxford, returned to court this week for a second attempt at trying the case.

Before a jury could be sworn the defendant entered guilty pleas to affray and possession of a knife.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward