Devon

Recorder Ignatius Hughes slams CPS in paedophile case

Anthony Mitchell Image copyright Devon and Cornwall Police
Image caption Football coach Anthony Mitchell has been jailed for drugging and raping young boys

A judge slammed the Crown Prosecution Service after evidence was left out in the trial of a paedophile.

Recorder Ignatius Hughes QC had ordered an internal CPS inquiry into the case involving Anthony Mitchell.

Mitchell was jailed for 21 years in February for drugging and sexually abusing boys in a youth football team.

A jury at Exeter Crown Court returned a guilty verdict despite not being told of allegations he searched for child abuse images on his computer.

Recorder Hughes heard Mitchell's computer was analysed by police experts before report was sent to the CPS, but it was then not included in case papers sent to the defence.

'Cost-saving failures'

The oversight was noticed shortly before Mitchell's trial was due to start, but the evidence was disputed by his defence team.

Instead of applying for an adjournment to consider the dispute, the CPS decided to proceed with the case as scheduled.

On hearing the results of the CPS inquiry, Recorder Hughes said prosecutors would have been left with "egg all over their face" had Mitchell been found not guilty.

He said there was a "black hole" caused by reorganisation of the CPS and asked whether the failure was the result of cost-saving exercises.

"If the case breaks down because of bad organisation or underfunding it is probably a case of spoiling the ship for a halfpenny's worth of tar," he said.

He said problems with a prosecution such as the Mitchell case would be "a great cause for public concern".

Laura Searle, for the CPS, apologised and said a meeting with trial counsel, at which the evidence should have been discussed, had not taken place because a convenient date could not be found.

But Lee Bremridge, for Mitchell, said the computer evidence had never actually been accepted and may have been challenged if the prosecution had relied on it in court.

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