The Daily Telegraph

Lawyers’ strike forces judge to bail suspected cocaine dealer

- By Charles Hymas Home Affairs editor

A JUDGE has released a suspected drugs gang leader from jail after his case was delayed by the barristers’ strike as he criticised “chronic” underfundi­ng of the criminal justice system.

Judge Keith Raynor cited the failure of the Government to adequately fund the courts as the reason for his decision to order the release on bail of the man, suspected of running a county-lines drug operation.

The 22-year-old defendant’s trial had to be halted because his barrister was on strike. The man was facing charges of supplying cocaine and cannabis in an alleged drug-dealing operation ranging between London and Leicester.

He was said to be a “prominent” figure in the operation and has been charged under the Modern Slavery Act after allegedly forcing two men to deal drugs for him. He denies the charges.

It is the latest high-profile example of suspects charged with serious offences being released by judges because of the barristers’ strike.

It comes days before Brandon Lewis, the Justice Secretary, is due to meet leaders of the Criminal Bar Associatio­n to discuss the strike by its 2,400 members over the Government’s offer of a 15 per cent increase in legal aid fees.

Judge Martin Edmunds KC, sitting at Isleworth Crown Court in London, has also ordered the release of three men charged with arson, assaulting an emergency worker and supplying class-a drugs because the courts were “faced with a systemic failure” owing to underinves­tment and the lawyers’ action.

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