St Albans parents speak out over CPS blunder

TWO parents have spoken of their devastation that a young driver convicted of killing their daughter through careless driving will not stand a retrial for a separate allegation of dangerous driving.

As reported earlier this month, a series of “lamentable” failures by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the courts in the case of Robert Dales, 21, resulted in a crucial legal deadline for the retrial being missed and an application for an extension for him to be re-arraigned turned down by a top judge at the Court of Appeal.

Dales, of Faircross Way, St Albans, admitted last year causing the death of popular 15-year-old Rachel Deradour from Colney Heath through careless driving along the Hemel Hempstead Road in St Albans on April 29, 2009.

But a separate conviction for dangerous driving along the A414 near London Colney eight months later was quashed at the Court of Appeal in October because the judges ruled that the justification for revealing details of the death by careless driving case during Dales’ trial for dangerous driving was flawed.

He had originally been sentenced for both convictions to eight concurrent 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 and his sentenced reduced to six months, half of which needed to be spent in custody. His four year driving ban was also reduced to three years.

The dangerous driving case was supposed to go to retrial but emails sent in November between St Albans Crown Court and Luton Crown Court, where it was due to be heard, were not followed up until January this year.

Judge Lord Justice Jackson said in the Court of Appeal earlier this month that the blunder coincided with the CPS’s Christmas party event and dismissed the application for an extension due to what he referred to as a failure to treat the case with “due diligence and expedition.”

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Aside from what the judge called “lamentable failures”, another factor included the fact that if Dales had been convicted following a retrial he could not have been sentenced to any more than 12 days in custody – the time outstanding when the original sentence was quashed.

Rachel’s parents, Tina and John, said: “We can’t believe that after a catalogue of errors by the CPS a boy who has already been found guilty of death by careless driving has been allowed to walk away without standing trial for another serious crime.

“We think the criminal justice system seems to work in favour of the defendant, not the victims. The CPS should have been punished separately, not instead of him having to face a retrial. Their mistake has allowed him to walk free. It is so unfair.”

They also pointed out that all of the witnesses in the dangerous driving case that went through the stressful experience of giving evidence and spending large amounts of time in court had done so for nothing.

They continued: “Thousands of pounds worth of taxpayers’ money and police time has been used on this case and in these times of financial struggle it has all been wasted because of the justice system itself. How do they justify this?”

Mr and Mrs Deradour have met with the CPS and have been assured that the same mistakes won’t happen again. They added: “The CPS is going to be sending us a letter of everything it has implemented to ensure it doesn’t happen again. But it’s too little too late as far as we are concerned. But although it is too late for us, at least other families won’t be in the same position as we are if the CPS gets its act together.”

They also believe that the sentencing guidelines for death by careless driving should be longer. At present the maximum sentence is three years but the Deradours would like to see this increased to five, and they will be looking into petitioning the Government on the matter.

Rachel, who would have turned 17 this month, was a promising Loreto College pupil described as a “fun-loving, vibrant, kind and special person who was loved by everybody that knew her.”