In the Media

Drink driving case abandoned after magistrate 'fell asleep'

PUBLISHED April 5, 2012

Paul Flynn, the chairman of the Bench, seemed to close his eyes during the sentencing of a drink-driver.

The case was reheard with three new magistrates after defence solicitor Caroline King made a complaint.

She was on her feet addressing the court in Macclesfield when the alleged incident happened.

Miss King said: "It was impossible for simple, speedy, summary justice to be delivered because one of the magistrates appeared to be asleep.

"I was concerned about this and as a consequence I asked for the case to be adjourned. It was essential because an injustice could have been done to my client.

"In six years practising law I have never known anything like it."

Mr Flynn, from Macclesfield, said he was aware of the incident and that an investigation has been launched. He said: "I've been advised not to comment."

Mr Flynn was hearing the case of drink-driver Dale Bertenshaw. He had pleaded guilty and was due to be sentenced.

Miss King was addressing the court at around 3pm when she suddenly stopped talking. Mr Flynn was then allegedly nudged by a magistrate sitting next to him.

Mitigation continued and the magistrates retired to consider their sentence. But after a complaint from Miss King, the court's legal clerk said the case should be heard by new magistrates.

She told Bertenshaw, from Manchester, it was in the interests of justice to give him a new hearing.

The case was adjourned for two days and Bertenshaw, 30, was given an interim driving ban.

At the new hearing, the prosecution file cover was labelled 'adjourned because magistrate was asleep'. Miss King told the new Bench: "There was an incident suggesting that the magistrate was not concentrating.

It was quite an unusual set of circumstances. It has put added stress and pressure on my client."

The committee which oversees magistrates in Cheshire is aware of the incident and is deciding whether to take action.

A spokesman for the Judicial Office said: "The Magistrates' Advisory Committee for Cheshire is aware of an incident involving a magistrate at Macclesfield magistrates' court and will make a decision on how to proceed in due course."