Trial of Jack Beecham at Liverpool Crown Court delayed due to COVID
By John Brace (Editor)
First publication date: Tuesday 8th November 2022, 14:46 (GMT).
The trial of Jack Beecham, of Wirral didn’t start as planned before HHJ (His Honor Judge) Swinnerton in Court 43 at the Liverpool Crown Court this morning (7th November 2022).
The hearing started at 10.50 am, as before it there were a couple of short “For Ground Rules” hearings relating to completely different cases.
Ms Fiona McNeill (a barrister) opened and explained that she represented the Defendant (Jack Beecham) who was absent and that Ms Khan represented ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office). It had been listed for a trial starting today [7th November 2022] however a message had been received from Mr Beecham who had tested positive for COVID that morning.
Ms Fiona McNeill went on to explain that Mr Beecham had spoken to his GP [general practitioner] and had the symptoms of a high temperature, as well as loss of taste and smell. Mr Beecham had been advised to self isolate for the standard period of 5 days. She continued that she had seen Mr Beecham in conference on Friday and that Mr Beecham was not somebody who was averse to coming to Court.
HHJ Swinnerton did state that Mr Beecham seemed averse to being interviewed as it had often been suggested that the Defendant was frightened of getting COVID.
Mr Beecham’s barrister continued that there was no documentary proof of the assertion of COVID but that Mr Beecham had shown a great interest in the case and had not given to her the impression that he was not attending today.
HHJ Swinnerton said that from reading the papers it had been a bee in Mr. Beecham’s bonnet since 2010, but that he [HHJ Swinnerton] had not got a copy of the Defence statement, could he have a copy?
A copy of the Defence statement was handed to HHJ Swinnerton which he read through.
HHJ Swinnerton commented on its contents.
Further comments were made and Ms Fiona McNeil explained that she had racked her brains for an alternative [to a trial], but that she hadn’t had a chance to speak to Ms Anam Khan but that in the absence of Mr Beecham she [Ms McNeill] was “powerless” but that she was happy to speak to Ms Anam Khan about any alternative resolution to avoid a trial, but that she [Ms McNeill] would have to take instructions from Mr Beecham assuming HHJ Swinnerton was prepared to adjourn, which could be usefully done that morning.
HHJ Swinnerton asked for Ms Anam Khan’s response to the absence of Mr Beecham?
Ms Anam Khan said that she was ill equipped to deal with it, as she had learned about it as she had entered Court and would like the opportunity to speak with her instructing solicitor (who was in a conference room next door). She continued that there were also 3 witnesses in attendance (who were all professionals) and that her view was that the Defendant was trying to make matters as prolonged as possible followed by apologising for straying into evidence.
HHJ Swinnerton said he had read the papers and been around long enough to glean something as to the nature of the Defendant (who was entitled to a trial), whether it was the best use of the resources of the Crown Court was a different question, was there any alternative way round it?
Ms Anam Khan answered that Mr Beecham had elected for a Crown Court trial.
HHJ Swinnerton replied that he was entitled to do so and asked if there was any proof of COVID such as a picture of the test?
Ms Fiona McNeil said that she did think HHJ Swinnerton would be asking and it could be arranged for that to happen from his [Mr Beecham’s] phone.
HHJ Swinnerton asked a further follow up question about communication with Mr Beecham.
Ms McNeill answered in relation to the her instructing solicitor and Mr Beecham’s GP.
HHJ Swinnerton adjourned the hearing for 10 minutes at 10:59 am so that inquiries could be made.
The hearing resumed at 11.12 am.
Ms Fiona McNeil said that every means of contacting Mr Beecham had been tried, but there had been no response to a phone call or text. She said that he may have been told to go to bed, which was an alternative interpretation to be be placed on that, she had no further information and no confirmation in a formal sense regarding that Mr Beecham was positive for COVID.
HHJ Swinnerton said that if the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) was prosecuting, a police car would be sent to see if Mr Beecham was in.
Ms Fiona McNeill replied that there would be confirmation on the system as soon as contact was made with Mr Beecham, cleary the Court should direct would should happen and whether it was adjourned.
HHJ Swinnerton said that if Mr Beecham was not in the house, he would issue a warrant for his arrest because he had been told to self isolate.
Ms Fiona McNeill clarified and said she thought HHJ Swinnerton had said HHJ Swinnerton would issue a warrant for his arrest?
HHJ Swinnerton said that he needed to get hold of Mr Beecham, he could be asleep and it was a bad time to ring, he would like to know if he was answering as it was a bad sign if the Defendant doesn’t answer on the day of the trial.
Ms Anam Khan said that one of the witnesses (who she named) was with Merseyside Police and may be able to assist enquiries.
HHJ Swinnerton suggested that she ask [the named witness] to do that straight away.
Ms Anam Khan replied yes thank you.
HHJ Swinnerton referred to popping round to endeavour to see if he was at home self isolating and asked Ms Khan if she had any further instructions.
Ms Anam Khan replied yes, the view was that the absence of evidence of COVID was unsatisfactory, but they were taking the pragmatic view and it was in the Court’s hands as to how to proceed.
HHJ Swinnerton said that if there was evidence of COVID he would not force a 71 year old man to give evidence to the Court.
Ms Anam Khan replied that if there was evidence, they would be taking a different stance, it was troublesome for the Court to adjourn to another day without repercussions.
HHJ Swinnerton said that steps had to be taken to try to get hold of him, a photo sent of a test would be some evidence which could be done frome a phone and verify the fact he was self isolating, if not a different complexion would be put on it, but he would see what they would come up with.
The hearing adjourned again at 11.18 am.
After resuming, HHJ Swinnerton said there was an issue with the address raised by the prosecution, they don’t have an address, but the bail sheets had an address in the Isle of Man, was that the address he was currently living at?
Ms Fiona McNeil replied that she didn’t know and that they weren’t prepared to give it to the prosecution in the circumstances.
HHJ Swinnerton referred to the Court papers sending sheet.
Ms McNeill wondered if she could phone and ask whether during a previous conversation a local address had been indicated.
HHJ Swinnerton referred to the address provided previously in the Isle of Man.
Ms Fiona McNeill asked if she could make a phone call to see whether she could get the address?
HHJ Swinnerton replied of course.
The hearing adjourned against at 11.28 am.
At 1.13 pm, the hearing resumed.
HHJ Swinnerton asked for any news?
Ms Anam Khan replied that it was logged in the pile of non-urgent work.
HHJ Swinnerton commented that it was not a very large pile?
Ms Anam Khan said she couldn’t say one way or another whether somebody would action the request today, if Mr Beecham was self-isolating for 5 days, so long as Merseyside Police attended Mr Beecham’s house between now and Friday, one hoped Mr Beecham would be in self isolation at home.
HHJ Swinnerton replied which a comment about check that Mr Beecham was self isolating.
Ms Anam Khan continued that the address that needed to be attended, was the one in Prenton, she believes she could provide the Court with that address.
HHJ Swinnerton said two things, the reality was they they would not be going to be able to start today, he’d indictated he’d got COVID so it was not going to go ahead, it would be listed for a mention next week, once the 5 days isolation was done. He was minded to simply vacate the trial list, then next week at the for mention hearing refix as by then the isolation period would be over, he asked whether a residence condition should be added to the bail conditions?
Ms Fiona McNeill replied that she couldn’t agree, but it seemed like the sensible course.
HHJ Swinnerton pointed out that Mr Beecham wouldn’t be migrating between more than one address whilst self isolating.
Ms Anam Khan read out Mr Beecham’s Wirral address.
HHJ Swinnerton said that he would add a bail condition of residence regarding Mr Beecham to live and sleep each night at that address.
Ms Anam Khan asked for an order that evidence be provided before the next hearing regarding the Defendant’s absence?
HHJ Swinnerton suggested that a date be found, but he was not here next week.
Ms Fiona McNeill said neither was she.
HHJ Swinnerton suggested the 21st?
Ms Fiona McNeill referred to a trial but suggested Wednesday 23rd?
HHJ Swinnerton said it was more more than enough time to recover from COVID.
Ms Anam Khan said it was convenient to her.
HHJ Swinnerton said he would reserve it to himself for the mention as he knew what had gone on today, it would be listed for 23rd November for a mention and refix, Mr Beecham must attend, if he was not fit to attend he would have to have a doctor’s note stating why not and that Mr Beecham couldn’t attend Court and also evidence of the positive test today, he suggested a photo of the test?
Ms Anam Khan replied regarding the evidence of a positive lateral flow test that it would be useful if any photo it was date and time stamped.
Ms Fiona McNeill suggested a newspaper.
HHJ Swinnerton said that in reality the way to achieve it was that Mr Beecham would answer the phone and at some point upload a photo of the test by 4pm today? If that proved impossible and they couldn’t get hold of Mr Beecham then a note from the instructing solicitor be uploaded as soom as possible thereafter was there anything else useful to move forward at all? It would be emailed to the prosecution, to the Court and HHJ Swinnerton by 4pm?
Ms Fiona McNeill replied that if not there would be an explanation.
HHJ Swinnerton replied that he still wanted it served as soon as possible but he didn’t think there was anything else to do.
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