Betting shop robbery: court case aborted at cost of £40,000

PUBLISHED: 14:06 27 January 2009 | UPDATED: 22:56 15 June 2010

A man accused of a gunpoint robbery at a Devon bookies has had his case thrown out of court because the only evidence against him was identity and he was wearing a Scream mask.

A man accused of a gunpoint robbery at a Devon bookies has had his case thrown out of court because the only evidence against him was identity and he was wearing a Scream mask.The assistant manager at the William Hill betting shop in Seaton said he was 99 per cent sure who the man with the hand gun was but when asked to identify him said he was wearing the cult horror film mask.At Exeter Crown Court, prosecutor Howard Philips said as that was the only evidence the Crown had for bringing the case against 34 year old Lee Laffey it had been decided the robbery charge against the defendant was "unsustainable," and then admitted the authority 'rarely knew what it was doing' from one week to the next.Judge Miranda Robertshaw launched a scathing attack on the Crown Prosecution Service as the four day trial was aborted at a cost to the taxpayer of some £40,000."This is inefficiency and poor attention to the case by the Crown Prosecution Service," said the judge. "This should have been considered at the plea and case management hearing back in October."Mr Philips then told the court: "We rarely know what we are doing more than a week in advance.""How can the criminal justice system work when you have admitted that you do not know what you are doing until a week before the case is to be tried?" asked Judge Robertshaw."It is clear that the system does not work," replied Mr Philips. "All I can say is that there is a new man in charge and there will be an inquiry into certain decisions which have been made."Judge Robertshaw said it was fortunate indeed that the defendant had been on bail awaiting his trial and not in custody.She ordered that a not guilty verdict on the robbery charge against Laffey from London be entered and he was discharged.In the robbery at William Hill betting shop in Harbour Road, Seaton £339 was handed over to the gunman who escaped in a waiting getaway car.This is the second time in two days that Judge Robertshaw has hit out at a "trial cock up."Yesterday (Monday) the case against a madcap motorist in two stolen cars who ran down and killed a dog and smashed into a trolley bay at a South Devon supermarket causing £5,000 had to be abandoned. The defendant in that case was also freed after the court heard that four witnesses to the car park smash up had given detailed descriptions of the man responsible but had never been asked to attend identity parades.When the defendant was released from the dock his supporters in the public gallery laughed prompting Judge Robertshaw to say: "This makes a mockery of the justice system. I wonder what the victims would say if they were sitting here today."In the most recent case Judge Robertshaw ordered that the Crown Prosecution Service case unit appear before the resident judge at the end of the week to explain the current crop of disasters.

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