REPORTCase of R v Bromley, before His Honour Judge Gratwicke, Chelmsford Crown Court, 24 June 2014Concerning the killing of Lee Balkwell at between 12midnight and 1.03am, 18 July 2002Present in Court:HH Judge GratwickeCourt Clerk, Court UsherThe Defendant, Simon BromleyThe Defendant’s father, David BromleySimon Bromley’s barrister (Mark Holsley) and Assistant Solicitor Les Balkwell and four family membersProsecutors: Karim Kahlil Q.C. and Nick Staite, CPS lawyer, East of England CPS and an assistant For Kent Police: DCI Janine Farrell, DC Godsmark2 on the press bench 4 others, one of whom said afterwards that he was there as ‘an interested party’ THE PROCEEDINGSCommenced at 10.39amThe Defendant’s barrister explained that this was a Plea and Case Management Hearing.He said he had only had the ‘Final Bundle’ 10 days ago, and had only received ‘The Indictment’ the previous day (23 June).He said that it was apparent that the case would ‘turn on expert evidence’.He said that the prosecution was relying on two expert reports in particular: one by ‘A Mechanical Engineer’ and one by a Pathologist, Dr Benjamin Swift.He said that the prosecution had had the expert engineer’s report ‘since 2011’.Mr Balkwell and I are not aware of any engineer’s report dated 2011, or indeed any other engineer’s report on the case, which confirms that this was an accident.On the contrary, we have an up-to-date expert report, dated January 2014, from the highly qualified expert engineer, Mr John Bond, who back in January in his latest report sated explicltly that it was highly improbable that the accident had happened in the way purported by the Defendant.His actual words were:
It is my further opinion that it is highly improbable that the alleged incident as claimed by Mr Simon Bromley took place at all.
The Defendant’s barrister suggested that as the Defendant had only just seen the case against him, and as he could not be sure (until he had seen the expert evidence of the mechanical engineer and the Pathologist) whether he was guilty of the offence alleged against him or not, he would be properly advised not to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
He explained: “We must have an adequate opportunity, if possible, of instructing our own expert, once we have properly read and digested the expert reports which we’ve only just been able to see”. He referred to the possible ‘impact’ on the case of the expert evidence.
He suggested that for this reason there should be another Case Management Hearing about a month before the date set for the trial, namely 6 October 2014. He thought that ‘by the end of August, all parties would know ‘the proper situation’.
The Defence barrister also said that the Defendant should ‘not lose any credit if he later changed his plea’. I took this to mean that if he later changed his plea from, say, ‘Not Guilty’ to ‘Guilty’, he should nevertheless be treated as if he had made his ‘Guilty’ plea at this hearing.
Judge Gratwicke seemed to agree with these points, i.e. that there should be another Case Management hearing in early September and that he should get credit if he later changed his plea to ‘Guilty’, depending on how the defence team assessed the expert evidence.
It would appear that the prosecution and defence teams had handed up to the judge a draft order which did indeed provide for a hearing in early September, but I could not catch the actual date, some date before 12 September. The Judge said that all expert reports should be in by 12 September.
Judge Gratwicke gave dates when he or Judge Christopher Ball would be available, all to do with their annual holidays I think, or maybe other commitments.
Simon Bromley was arraigned. The two charges were read out:
1. Manslaughter of Lee Balkwell by ‘gross negligence’ ‘sometime between 16 and 19 July 2002’
2. Breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act, Section 2 (1) in relation to the procedure for ‘gunning out’ setting concrete from a concrete mixer.
Simon Bromley pleaded ‘Not Guilty’ to both charges. The Judge said he already had the appropriate form signed by the Defendant.
Judge Gratwicke referred to a ‘Draft Order’ in front of him and ‘Point 3’ in particular, which dealt with the need for skeleton arguments by the defence needing to be submitted in time and to ‘proper authority’ from the Court being required to serve any additional evidence after a certain date. ‘There must be an application’, he said, ‘marked specifically for my attention’.
The Defence barrister made specific reference to the ‘very lengthy history’ of the case.
The Judge reminded all parties that the trial was due to begin on 6 October and then stood Simon Bromley down from the dock, on condition that he observes the same bail conditions as before.
Case concluded at 10.52am