Practice and Procedure

R (On the application of F) v BALHAM YOUTH COURT (2003)

PUBLISHED October 24, 2003

Balham Youth Court had erred in granting a second adjournment in the prosecution of the claimant for assault occasioning actual bodily harm in circumstances where the only two prosecution witnesses had not given credible reasons for their failure to attend.Application for judicial review of the decision of Balham Youth Court ('C') on 28 April 2003 to allow the prosecution's application for an adjournment of proceedings against the fifteen year old claimant ('F') for assault occasioning actual bodily harm on the basis that the only two prosecution witnesses had failed to attend. F's trial had initially been listed for 6 March 2003. Both F and two prosecution witnesses ('M' and 'Q') failed to attend on time. C was told that M was in bed but there was no information as regards Q. The prosecution was granted an adjournment but F and M appeared later in the day at which point C accepted the reason for F's earlier non-attendance. The trial was listed for 28 April 2003. On that date F attended but M and Q did not. C was told that both witnesses were at work and that both thought the trial was "tomorrow or the next day". Despite F's argument that the explanations were not credible C granted a second adjournment. M and Q later stated that they had "forgotten" about the trial. On this application F argued that: (i) M and Q's explanations for their failure to attend were clearly not credible; (ii) given F's age the second adjournment should not have been ordered; and (iii) the decision to adjourn was therefore irrational and manifestly wrong.HELD: (1) It was clear from R v Hereford Magistrates, ex p Rowland (1998) QB 110 that applications to adjourn in criminal cases should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny. The court should also consider whether the public interest was such that it should accede to an adjournment and the court should take into account that it was important in the Youth Court for trials to proceed expeditiously. (2) Rigorous scrutiny of M and Q's explanations for their failure to attend on the second occasion would have revealed that those explanations were not credible. Moreover, it was not a case where there had been any pressure placed upon either M or Q not to give evidence. (3) Given F's age and all the other circumstances it had not been in the public interest to have granted the adjournment and the court would intervene to quash that decision. C should have finally determined the case by refusing the second adjournment.Application allowed.