Trial adjournment due to lack of judges is 'deeply worrying'
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
The trial of a former Suffolk boarding school teacher accused of indecently assaulting a boy in the 1980s has been adjourned for 10 months due to a shortage of judges.
Alan Colling, 67, a former teacher at Buckenham School, now of Scarborough, has denied three charges of indecently assaulting a boy under 14 and one of indecency against a boy under 14 in Brettenham, near Stowmarket.
His trial at Ipswich Crown Court should have begun yesterday but was instead adjourned until December.
Agreeing to the postponement, Recorder Richard Atchley said: “With great reluctance on behalf of the court this case must be stood out until December.
“The reality is that this court today only has two judges instead of four or five. We have requested Recorders but there are none available and I’m doing another case,” said the judge.
He apologised to the alleged victim and the defendant for the trial, which was given a fixed date in February last year, being taken out of the list.
“No-one should have such a matter hanging over them for the length of time this is. I’m very sorry,” he added.
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Tim Passmore, Suffolk police and crime commissioner, said solutions need to be found.
"This whole situation is deeply worrying and very unsatisfactory," he said. "We urgently need to find a solution to this ongoing problem.
"It's an extra burden, incidentally, on the victim and witness criminal justice department within the constabulary – their workload has gone up hugely during the pandemic.
"That's another reason why we must find a solution because the old saying 'justice delayed is justice denied' I think rings very true."
He added: "We are more than happy to work with all agencies to come up with a solution to clear the backlog as quickly as possible.
"The invitation is there, I've said that to the local criminal justice board, and we really have got to be absolutely focused on what the needs of the victims are and bringing people to justice much more quickly than the current situation."
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it is continuing with a high volume of judicial recruitment, alongside the Judiciary, with a recruitment programme of around 1,000 judges in 2021/22 and 1,100 in 2022/23.
An MoJ spokesman said: “We have kept justice moving despite the vast impact of the pandemic and are investing almost half a billion pounds to drive recovery and deliver the swift access to justice victims deserve.
“We are working with the judiciary to increase the number of judges available, by hiring more and increasing the number of days they sit.”