- Case was before His Honour Judge Gratwicke.
- Case adjourned at the request of the CPS so that they ‘could make further enquiries’.
- Plea and Case Management Hearing listed for Monday 16 June.
- Trial date fixed for 3 weeks and 2 days, 6th to 28th October, and,
- The Defendant was not required at today’s hearing to enter a plea. He will have to enter a plea on 16 June, after prosecution papers are served on him
Simon Bromley was charged on 25 November 2013 with the following two alleged offences regarding the death of Lee Balkwell at around 1.03am on 18 July 2002:
- Manslaughter: That the gross negligence of Simon Bromley resulted in the death of Lee Balkwell and
- Breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act by Simon Bromley: Failing to ensure the safety of Lee Balkwell as his employee
(Source: Letter from Mr Frank Ferguson, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor, East of England Crown Prosecution Service).
The application for a Crown Court trial was heard by Essex Magistrates at Basildon Magistrates Court on 28 January 2013, after confusion by the police, the Courts and the CPS over the date of the hearing, which had originally been listed ‘in error’ for 27 January. The Magistrates then remitted the case to Chelmsford Crown Court for a ‘Plea & Case Management Hearing’ during week commencing 22 April.
In the event that too was adjourned, until 1 May, apparently because one of the barristers was involved in another case that week.
Plea and Case Management Hearing, 1 May 2014, Chelmsford Crown Court, in Court No. 1
The case got under way at about 10.45am. It was heard before His Honour Judge Gratwicke, Honorary Recorder of Chelmsford Crown Court.
In court was Les Balkwell and seven relatives and supporters. The Defendant appeared in the dock and his father David Bromley was in court to support his son.
Simon Bromley was not, after all, required to enter a plea, for the reasons given below, namely that the CPS were not yet ready to proceed because of the need to make ‘further enquiries’.
The CPS were represented in court for the first time in this case by the eminent Karim Kahlil Q.C., the Joint Head of Chambers at One Paper Buildings. He has been used previously by East of England CPS in controversial cases, notably in the case of the shooting dead of Shane Hill (20) and David Castell (29) at the Willow Park travellers’ site near Mildenhall, Suffolk on 15 March 2011:
Kahlil successfully prosecuted the case, in which the jury convicted Christopher Line, then 29, of both killings. Line, who has learning disabilities, had been the long-term accomplice and live-in partner of Sam Vinden. The incident in which the two lost their lives involved a long-running property dispute between Vinden and another which had previously reached both the criminal and civil courts.
Kahlil has appointed a junior barrister to assist him. Today in court he had CPS lawyer Nick Staite accompanying him. Also present were four members of the Kent Police’s investigation team in the Lee Balkwell case and four security police men and women dressed all in black.
Karim Kahlil opened the case by opaquely referring to a ‘raft of correspondence’ there had been in recent weeks between him, the barrister for the defence and the court staff about the possibility of an adjournment. Judge Gratwicke replied: “Yes, and most of it was contradictory”.
Mr Kahlil explained on the CPS side that an adjournment was necessary because ‘a need for the CPS to make further enquiries had arisen’. No further details were given, and Les Balkwell was not aware of why there would be any need for ‘further enquiries’ when Essex Police had already investigated the case for 8 years (2002-2010) and Kent Police for a further 4 years (2010-2014).
Mr Kahlil said: “I hope and expect that these necessary enquiries will be concluded within the next 12 weeks, or within a little time further than that. Then, after that, we and the CPS would need to reflect for a while on the outcome of those enquiries”.
He went on to say that if the court were minded to agree his proposed timetable, he thought he would be able to present the necessary prosecution papers to be served on the defence by 7 June and that there could be a further Plea and Case Management Hearing on Friday 13 June. Alternatively, that date could be used for a ‘Directions and Mention’ hearing, perhaps with a Plea and Case Management Hearing ‘at the end of the first fortnight in September’.
He said that the prosecution’s ‘Skeleton Arguments’ could be ready by the end of the first week in June.
Judge Gratwicke pointed out that this matter had been reserved to be dealt with by a particular judge (he did not say which one) and that Friday 13 June would not be a convenient day for that particular judge.
Kahlil pressed on by saying that he was ‘trying to be constructive’ about a case that had a ‘long and complex history’.
The judge said: ‘The sooner we concentrate on the timetable, the better’. He said he thought there ought to be a full Plea and Case Management Hearing on 13 June: “Why do we not have a PCSM then, and not just a Directions Hearing?” The judge said that directions could also be given the same day. Skeleton legal arguments could be given by them with ‘more precise details supplied later’.
The judge said that “I will be free to hear this on Monday 16 June, would that be convenient?”
The Defence barrister intervened at this point. He said he would be in Truro that day.
The judge said: “A very nice place”.
The Defence barrister said: “Not for a holiday, unfortunately. I will be involved at the start of an 8-week trial that day”.
The judge said: “You will both know by then what Directions you are seeking. You will both know what the arguments are. Both barristers can liaise with each other before 16 June”.
Mr Kahlil said that his target date for getting the statutory case details to the Defence was ‘Friday 7 June’. He clearly meant 6 June.
The Defence barrister objected. He said: “But that means I would only have a week to respond before the hearing on 16 June. For example, there is the issue of expert evidence. Depending on how the prosecution puts its case, I may need to call expert evidence. The case may turn on expert evidence. We may need time to get expert evidence. We may need months from here on”.
The judge said: “But you are an experienced barrister. You could make an assessment of the issues in two hours. Is there a case to answer - or not? It won’t take you very long to decide. The court wants to progress this matter. This case has already taken a very long time. We have got to put it into the ring. I will fix a Plea and Case Management Hearing for Monday 16 June”.
There was then a discussion about how long the actual trial would take. The Defence barrister said ‘2-3 weeks’. Karim Kahlil said: ‘We should need 3 weeks’. The Defence suggested that the case ought to be delayed until, say January or February.
Available dates were consulted and, after a further objection from the Defence, it was listed for Monday 6 October, for 3 weeks and 2 days (6 to 28 October), including 2 days for ‘legal arguments’.
The rival skeleton legal arguments will be considered at the PCMH on 16 June.
The Defence barrister then raised the issue of unequal legal resources in the case. He pointed out that the prosecution had hired a top Q.C. (Kahlil) and had a junior barrister to help him. He said to the judge that he should be allowed to have a junior as well, and asked the judge to recommend this (presumably because the Defendant is on Legal Aid). The judge said he would consider it. He added: “I am not aware of any complications in this case”. The Defence barrister said he would submit detailed arguments in writing to the judge about being allowed to hire a junior to assist him. The judge said: “I will think very carefully about it”.
The judge raised the issue of bail.
Mr Kahlil Q.C. said there were no bail conditions required.
The judge reminded Mr Kahlil that: “In this court there is always the bail requirement that the Defendant give the court and the police his name and address and notify them of any changes in his address. So that we know where he is”.
Finally the judge referred to an altercation between certain people that had occurred within the Court precincts and said that there must be no repetition at future hearings.
Complaint by Les Balkwell about the conduct of Kent Police Officers after the hearing
After the hearing, Les Balkwell saw the four police officers from Kent laughing and joking with the Defendant and his father, within the court precincts, and he has today made a formal complaint to the Assistant Chief Constable of Kent about the matter.
The complaint, to Assistant Chief Constable Rob Price of Kent Police, has been worded as follows.
"That following the court hearing today (1 May), all five officers, Janine Farrell, Nicholas Baxter, Ian Godsmark, Gary Scarfe and another lady officer were seen having an extended discussion with the Defendant, Simon Bromley, and his father, David Bromley. During all of this period, all seven were seen heartily laughing and joking with each other, clearly enjoying good jokes and the conversation. As the father of the victim in this case, I find it deeply offensive, outrageous and totally unacceptable that these five officers should conduct themselves like that, and especially so in front of several members of the victim's family.
“These officers are supposed to be prosecuting the man who, whether deliberately or by accident, caused the death of my son. In addition, at the hearing at Essex Magistrates Court on 28 January, Simon Bromley was accompanied into court from the neighbouring police station by Janine Farrell and other officers in the case, Bromley having met them at the police station beforehand. In fact he was seen to park his vehicle in the police station car park, an unusual facility for any Defendant. This conduct serves to confirm that in this case, all the officers are working for Simon Bromley and against the interests of the victim and his family".
NOTE on the ‘Sub judice’ rule
The case is sub judice. There is a general caution about doing anything which does or might ‘cause a substantial risk of serious prejudice’ to the administration of justice. THis is aimed at the mass circulation TV and print media. This does not apply to the reporting of proceedings in open court, such as occurred today at Chelmsford, which is specifically exempted.
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