CPS defends goldfish trial decision

David BaleProsecutors of a discontinued trial into the deaths of three goldfish worth just �7 have today defended their decision to pursue the case.David Bale

Prosecutors of a discontinued trial into the deaths of three goldfish worth just �7 have today defended their decision to pursue the case.

The Evening News told last week how the case, which cost thousands of pounds as well as numerous police and CPS man hours, was thrown out due to lack of evidence.

The decision to pursue the case in the first place and a Norfolk Police error, which caused it to collapse, led to criticism from a Norwich magistrate and a national pressure group.

However, today the Crown Prosecution Service defended its role in bringing the case to court.

The case centred upon Chantelle Amies, who was charged with criminal damage following a Norfolk police investigation into the death of three chocolate goldfish owned by a neighbour.

The 19-year-old was accused of poisoning the fish using bleach following a dispute. She denied the charge and the case went to trial at Norwich Magistrates' Court on Thursday.

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However, chairman of the bench, Mary-Anne Massey, decided there was no case to be heard after the court was told that a police failure to send evidence away for tests meant there was no way of proving any wrong-doing.

Today, district crown prosecutor for the CPS, Frank Ferguson said: 'Causing damage to someone else's property in this way is not considered a minor offence by the CPS, but in fact it would be in the public interest for us to prosecute such cases.

'In this case we considered we had the evidence to bring a prosecution, and although the contents of the tank had not been analysed for the contamination by bleach, we considered there was sufficient evidence to place before a court, given the other evidence that was available, in particular the alleged strong smell of bleach from the tank and the defendant's fingerprints on the tank and on a bottle of bleach in the house. Our position was therefore in our view sustainable.

'Our role is to present these facts to the court, and it is for the magistrates to ultimately determine the appropriate course of action.'

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Norfolk Constabulary said: 'We fulfilled our role in presenting the evidence to the CPS who decided there was sufficient to proceed.'

The average magistrates' court trial is estimated to cost at least �2,000, but this was the third time the case had been listed in court requiring parties to be present, meaning the overall cost may be higher.

The TaxPayers' Alliance said it was 'wasteful and unjust to bring a case to court without sufficient evidence', and a serving Norwich magistrate also criticised the handling of the mattter.

Do you think the case should have been brought before the courts? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk.