John Halewood-Dodd column

John Halewood Dodd
John Halewood Dodd

Living in a city with a main line railway station means that cases frequently come before Lancaster Magistrates Court following incidents that have occurred on trains that are passing through.

In one such case I represented a Scotsman who when enquiring why his train was so late had allegedly been abusive to the guard.

So much so that when the train pulled into Lancaster the police were waiting for him.

He denied any wrongdoing and the case was subsequently set down for trial.

Two months later, and my client had taken the precaution of travelling down the day before trial to ensure 
he made the scheduled 10 o’clock start.

Unfortunately, for the Prosecutor none of the six witnesses he was expecting had arrived.

He applied for, and was given, a short adjournment to make enquiries of their whereabouts.

Half an hour passed and when he was unable to make contact with a single witness he applied to adjourn to another date.

I successfully opposed this arguing that cases should not be adjourned without explanation as to why the witnesses had seen fit to absent themselves.

With no witnesses, and with the Magistrates unwilling to adjourn to another date, the Prosecutor was left with no alternative but to offer no evidence against my client and the case was dismissed.

You’ve probably guessed what occurred next, as each and every witness, including the guard, arrived at various stages throughout the day complaining that their trains had been delayed.

When asked why they hadn’t telephoned ahead to alert the court to their difficulties each said they had tried but were unable to get a signal when on the train, explaining why the Prosecutor had been unable to contact them.

I accept that Justice may not have been done on this occasion but the irony of it all did amuse me.