Judge slams ‘blunders’ in baby assault case
A JUDGE has hit out at the prosecution system after “grotesque blunders” in the case of a man who assaulted a baby.
The judge said prosecutors charged the 21-year-old babysitter too lightly, causing what he labelled a “manifest injustice”.
And he warned the same “robotic and mechanical” approach was likely to have been replicated in other cases.
Visibly frustrated, Recorder John Hardy attacked the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for charging Daniel Hone with actual bodily harm rather than the more serious offence of grievous bodily harm.
He has now referred the case to the Attorney General and received an apology from the CPS.
Hone was drunk and had smoked cannabis when he caused 28 separate injuries, including bite marks, to the 19-month-old girl last November.
Recorder Hardy said: “How anyone with an iota of intelligence reading that catalogue of injuries, which is indicative of a sustained and savage assault committed on a little girl aged 19 months, can fail to spot that it amounts to GBH indicates to me that something is very, very wrong with the system...if it results in grotesque blunders such as this.
“The robotic, mechanical approach taken in this and, no doubt, many other cases has resulted, in my view, in a manifest injustice being perpetrated on this little girl and her family.”
The girl’s mother discovered the injuries the following day and the child was admitted to hospital to have two operations during a three-day stay.
Prosecutor Naomi Perry, who was not the charging lawyer, said she counted 28 separate bruises and marks on the baby’s body.
Hone, of Dover Avenue, Banbury, was charged through CPS Direct, a system set up in 2003 offering charging advice to police over the telephone.
Recorder Hardy said: “I’m concerned this case may have in part resulted from the policy which has been dressed up with the gimmicky title ‘Stop Delaying Justice’ which is inevitably going to lead to poor and hurried decision making in cases such as these.”
Hone, who admitted the charge, was jailed for three years, but Recorder Hardy told him: “For reasons which, in my view, utterly defy comprehension, a lawyer working for CPS Direct advised that you be charged in relation to this sustained, brutal and vicious assault with one matter of ABH.
“Because you have been committed for sentence to this court, that’s all I can sentence you for.
“Had you been properly charged in this matter at the very least an extended sentence if not an indeterminate sentence for public protection would have been passed.”
He added: “There’s an old legal maxim ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. It has its origins in the Magna Carta, but just as justice delayed is justice denied, so too is justice done in a hurry or on the cheap.”
The CPS has written to the judge to explain its decisions.
A spokesman said: “We accept that the decisions made limited the Crown Court’s sentencing powers, and have apologised to the judge.”
She said Stop Delaying Justice is “an initiative led by the judiciary” and “played no role whatsoever in the selection of the charge in this case”.
Police said they will talk to the CPS “in the near future to see if any lessons can be learned”.