Judge gobsmacked by attitude of State witness to Athlone drugs trial

Westmeath’s Circuit Court judge has said he is gobsmacked that a State employed witness, who had been summonsed to court, went on holidays instead of attending an Athlone man’s drugs trial earlier this year.

Judge Tony Hunt said the failure of the forensic scientist to attend court in May had put in jeopardy the trial of a man who is in custody, charged with having €360,000 worth of drugs for sale or supply.

He said it was a disgraceful state of affairs, not fair, and not appropriate.

The scientist, employed by the Forensic Science Laboratory, ignored a witness summons and effectively made a rude gesture to the court that said “To hell with you and he can rot in jail”, according to Judge Hunt.

Christopher Lacey of Twyford, Baylin, Athlone is alleged to have had cocaine, amphetamine, and cannabis for sale or supply at his home in November 2009.

He denies all aspects of the prosecution for the offence, which on conviction carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years.

The case, which was supposed to have gone to trial in May, was relisted before Judge Hunt last week.

“As far as I can see all the extra resources assigned to this county have been wasted. There’s been no forward movement at all,” said the judge who has arranged extra sittings with extra judges in the Mullingar Circuit to deal with scores of trials, some of which had been waiting several years.

Lacey’s legal team asked for the case to be struck out, because after being remanded in custody in October last year, he was still on remand because of a mistake made by the State.

Stephen Byrne, BL said the scientist’s decision showed scant regard on behalf of the State to his client’s right to have his case heard as quickly as possible.

He said striking out the case would send out a loud and clear message to the State; the judge, while he believed that option was not open to him at that time, adjourned the case for consideration.

Yesterday Judge Hunt reiterated that he was “very displeased” by what had happened after he was asked to facilitate a speedy trial for Lacey in a busy list.

“To use a non-legal term, I’m gobsmacked by that, I really am,” he said, referring again to the forensic scientist’s behaviour.

He remanded Mr Lacey in continuing custody to appear before Mullingar Circuit Court for trial on October 1 and ordered that he receive whatever medical care he needs for back injuries he sustained in a car accident last year.

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