QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF WOTTON||(CLAIMANT)|
|CENTRAL DEVON MAGISTRATES' COURT||(DEFENDANT)|
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited
190 Fleet Street London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7831 8838
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
THE DEFENDANT WAS NOT REPRESENTED
Monday, 27 January 2003
Crown Copyright ©
"In summary, over the last two years Mr Wotton appears to have developed a significant impairment of his cognitive functioning which has probably been caused by stroke disease. As a result, he is having difficulty formulating abstract thoughts and has some impairment of his short-term memory. He has become rather reckless and somewhat disinhibited and also rather irritable. He seems to show a lack of judgment and had difficulty understanding the nature or seriousness of the allegations made against him. In my opinion, the alleged offending behaviour was caused by his brain damage. This impairs his judgment and also impairs, to a significant extent, his ability to give instructions. Unfortunately, his condition is likely to deteriorate especially if he has further strokes."
"My conclusion is that Mr Wotton's memory and other cognitive functions have been deteriorating over the last two years and this is probably caused by cerebro-vascular disease. Because of his memory impairment, he cannot give his legal advisers a reliable account of his previous behaviour. He is also unable to put the evidence into perspective and to understand its significance. His evidence given in court is likely, therefore, to be unreliable. For these reasons I believe that he is not properly fit to stand trial. Because the underlying cause of his cognitive impairment is likely to be progressive, the situation is not likely to improve."
Not surprisingly, in the light of those medical reports, an application was made to the magistrates for a stay of the proceedings on the basis that it was not possible for Mr Wotton to have a fair trial given his medical condition. The evidence from Dr Packer in those reports was before the magistrates and there was not evidence pointing in any other direction from the prosecution. The magistrates heard the application for a stay on 24 April 2002, and they refused the application. They gave their reasons, most helpfully provided to this court in full terms, and I quote the essential part of the them:
"We, as a court, are here to protect the court's process from abuse. We are confined to matters directly affecting the fairness of the trial, and are aware that the parameters of such powers are set quite narrowly. We are satisfied that the Mid Devon District Council have not acted oppressively or unfairly. We have listened to Mr Crosse and Miss Tebbey and have read fully both skeleton arguments. Although we have seen written evidence that shows Mr Wotton is unwell and that his health may deteriorate, we are not of the view at this stage that this provides good reason why we should stay the proceedings. There is nothing before us to suggest that Mr Wotton would have nothing but a fair trial because his interests are safeguarded by him being legally represented and the further protection in place in the court. There is equality of arms because Mr Wotton's interests are adequately protected by virtue of his legal representation. We feel that in arriving at this decision, we as an authority have been acting compatibly with the European Convention of Human Rights, we therefore do not stay the proceedings on the grounds of abuse of process."
"Dr Packer's latest report (February 2002) was 5 months after the claimant's stroke (September 2001). It is now 5 months later still. The court will be assisted by an up-to-date report from Dr Packer. Mid Devon District Council should be joined as an interested party and has leave to file medical evidence if it chooses to do so."