The Procurator Fiscal’s Office in Glasgow had lodged a Bill of Advocation challenging a Sheriff’s decision to refuse a motion to adjourn a trail to secure the attendance of a key crown witness which was successful in the Sheriff Appeal Court.
The accused, Robert McIntyre, had been charged with sexually assaulting his former partner. The accused had pled not guilty and trial diets had been set for part-hearing on the 22nd of November 2019 and then for the 6th of December 2019 for the trial to be completed. The trial diet on the 6th of December 2019 was adjourned due to the complainer not being able to attend court due to childcare issues. The matter was thereafter continued to the 17th of March 2020 for the complainer to attend. The matter did not proceed on that date as the complainer was self-isolating due to coronavirus. A further trial diet was fixed for the 2nd of September 2020. The complainer was provided 8 days’ notice of this and could not attend due to childcare issues. The Sheriff refused the Crown motion to adjourn for the complainer’s attendance and deserted simpliciter.
The Crown thereafter lodged a Bill of Advocation challenging the Sheriff’s refusal of their motion stating that the Sheriff had failed to give proper weight to the pandemic, the seriousness of the charge and the prejudice the decision would cause to the complainer.
Delivering the opinion of the Sheriff Appeal Court, Sheriff Principal Stephen stated:
“The sheriff appears to have given insufficient weight to the prejudicial consequences which the refusal of the adjournment would cause for the prosecution of this serious charge and X as the complainer in that charge. Insufficient consideration has been given to the current public health crisis, a factor which is difficult to overstate.”
“In refusing the crown adjournment in the absence of real prejudice to the respondent compared with the clear, obvious and significant prejudice to the prosecutor and the public interest, including that of X, the sheriff reached a decision which no reasonable sheriff could have reached in all the circumstances.”
The decision to dismiss the matter was therefore recalled and the case shall be brought back to court for a trial.