Driver who collided with cyclist says fair trial is impossible

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THE driver of a vehicle which collided with a teenage cyclist in St Martin in 2020 is asking for proceedings against her to be halted, saying it would be impossible to get a fair trial.

Julia Strachan denies causing serious injury while driving a motor vehicle without due care or attention.

In the Magistrate’s Court this week she said that there had been an abuse of process by the prosecution and the case should be discontinued.

On her behalf, Advocate Howard Sharp argued that Mrs Strachan could not receive a fair trial because the Crown had failed to fully disclose information when the defence had asked for it.

This meant that he could not provide a full defence, the advocate said.

He accused the prosecution of conducting a ‘war of attrition’ in allegedly failing to hand over requested documents or allowing a defence expert to examine the bicycle.

He also said that Mrs Strachan could not be fairly tried because the Attorney-General had previously decided three times that she should not be prosecuted.

‘After three times, both Mrs Strachan and the wider public are entitled to think that the matter has been closed,’ he argued.

Advocate Sharp also argued that the report of an accident investigator, put forward by the Crown, should not be allowed as evidence because the author ‘had been acting not as an expert witness but as prosecution advocate’.

He questioned why an initial report by another police accident investigator, who had identified glass and a bicycle scuff mark in the middle of the main road at the junction where the accident had happened, had not been included as evidence.

The lawyer argued that the Crown had decided to prosecute last year due to ‘speculation and pressure from the boy’s family’.

For the prosecution, legal adviser Francis Burak said that an abuse-of-process application was one of last resort to be used in only in exceptional circumstances.

‘There has been no breach of duty and even if a breach has been found, these are matters that should be dealt with during the trial.

‘And even then, a fair trial is possible,’ he said.

Mr Burak argued that the reason the prosecution had changed its mind was new evidence which suggested that Mrs Strachan had been accessing her phone at the time of the crash. He added that the scuff mark on the road had been discounted because it was not at the right angle to make it relevant to this accident.

However, he also said that scuff marks had been identified on the boy’s bike, a revelation made during this week’s hearing which Advocate Sharp said he found ‘shocking’.

‘You should not have to force a prosecutor to disclose information,’ he said. ‘It has taken this whole process today to get one relevant piece of information.’

Mr Burak defended the report of the accident investigator, whose evidence is being used by the prosecution; however, he conceded that the officer had ‘gone too far’ in some instances, by stating conclusions with certainty when they were opinions.

This is why the Crown was applying to amend the report before any possible trial, he said.

However, he added that the rest of the report was robust and it was always proper for an expert to explore possibilities.

The day-long hearing was before the Magistrate, Bridget Shaw, who said she would present her decision as to whether there had been an abuse of process or not on Friday 10 March.

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