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Waiting for six months for his trial

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: February 28, 2013

WAITING: Gary Passmore will have to wait more than six months for his trial.

A MAN who denies using threatening, abusive and insulting language will have waited more than six months for the case to be resolved by the time his trial is held.

The defendant, Gary Passmore, 23, of 21 Belmont Road, Barnstaple is accused of committing the offence on November 23 last year but will not face trial until June 3, a wait of six months and 11 days.

The target set by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is for at least 75 per cent of summary cases such as Passmore's to be dealt with within six WEEKS of the offence.

Passmore's solicitor, Tim Hook, was agog at the news, which came when Passmore appeared at North Devon Magistrates' Court on Friday morning.

When the court's legal advisor, Hannah Penfold, announced the date of the trial Mr Hook's jaw dropped, and other solicitors in the court room were also visibly taken aback.

"Mr Hook looks as if he might catch a fly," quipped Miss Penfold, only for the lightning sharp Mr Hook to reply, "or something rather larger I might imagine".

Miss Penfold explained how the trial would have to be listed in June because it is a high priority case, and cannot be listed to take place at the same time as another high priority case.

It is common practice for HMCTS to list two or more cases to take place at the same time, in case one does not proceed.

The irony, Miss Penfold explained, is the case could have been listed sooner if it was lower priority, as it could then be listed at the same time as a high priority case.

And this news comes just a week after it was announced HMCTS would be reviewing a pilot scheme to reduce hours at the Barnstaple court.

In last week's North Devon Journal solicitor Zara Svensson explained how she had a trial which was listed for two months time – which she felt was an unacceptable delay.

She said the pilot scheme clearly isn't working, as there simply isn't enough time for the court to deal with all its trials.

HMCTS spokesman James Rea wouldn't comment on the pilot scheme, but said the courts service was committed to reducing the time it takes for cases to go through the criminal justice system.

"We are working with other CJS (Criminal Justice System) agencies to introduce steps that will improve timeliness," he said.

"This case was provisionally listed to be heard on a date that provided a long enough hearing slot, however, a recent change of plea means that a shorter slot on an earlier date can now be sought."

He also said some matters, because of their complexity or length, may take longer to complete than the target of six weeks.

Passmore also entered no plea to a charge of possession of 3.22 grams of cannabis.

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