St Albans death-crash driver will not face retrial

A DEATH-crash motorist who killed a popular teenage girl will never face a re-trial for a separate dangerous driving charge due to failings in the justice system.

One of the reasons for a crucial legal deadline being missed in the case of Robert Dales, of Faircross Way, St Albans, was a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Christmas party, the Court of Appeal heard this week.

Having previously denied the charge, the 21 year old admitted last year causing the death of 15-year-old Rachel Deradour from Colney Heath through careless driving along the Hemel Hempstead Road in St Albans on April 29, 2009.

Dales’ red Hyundai car clipped the kerb, causing it to spin into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Rachel, a promising Loreto College pupil, died at the scene and the driver of the other car suffered serious injuries.

Details of the case were heard last year when Dales stood trial for a separate allegation of dangerous driving along the A414 near London Colney in the December following the fatal accident, while he was on bail.

He was found guilty and sentenced for both convictions to eight months in a young offenders’ institution, half of which he had to serve before being released on licence.

But the conviction for dangerous driving was quashed by the Court of Appeal in October after his defence argued that the two cases should not have been heard together as the first accident could not prove a propensity to drive dangerously, only carelessly. His sentence was also reduced to six months.

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Due to legal restrictions, the Herts Advertiser was unable to report on those proceedings at the time.

A retrial was set to take place at Luton Crown Court but, after “a series of failures” on the part of the CPS at St Albans and Luton Crown Courts, Dales has now escaped that prospect.

Top judge Lord Justice Jackson explained that an email about Dales’ case was sent between the two courts on November 9 but was not followed up until this January.

In a damning ruling, he said the case revealed a “lamentable history of a lack of communication between Luton Crown Court and St Albans Crown Court, and a lack of liaison with the court by the CPS.”

He also said the blunder which meant the crucial deadline was missed “coincided with a ‘team seasonal event’, which is a euphemism for a Christmas party.” He added: “In our view matters of that nature cannot possibly excuse this.”

Prosecutor Ann Evans asked the court to grant an extension so that Dales could be re-arraigned, arguing that it was in the “interests of justice” that he be tried again.

But Lord Justice Jackson said the CPS had failed to show that they had treated the case with “due diligence and expedition” and dismissed the application.

Dales has since been released from the young offenders’ institution and has completed his period on licence.

Rachel’s parents, John and Tina Deradour, said they were devastated at the news this week.