A man has been acquitted of burgling 16 electricity substations after police botched the identification procedure.
Benjamin Queen, 25, of Bridge Street, Rishton, pleaded not guilty at Burnley Crown Court to 16 counts of burglary each relating to different substations across the Hyndburn area in 2012 and 2013.
Prosecutors had claimed that Queen has stolen ‘expensive cabling’ after using bolt croppers to cut off padlocks to the substations and claimed they had CCTV footage linking him to the burglaries.
However Judge Jonathan Gibson ruled that the prosecution evidence was ‘not admissible’ after police officers failed to carry out correct identification protocols. He was cleared of the charges after the prosecution decided not to proceed with the case.
Wayne Jackson, prosecuting, told the jury: “When identification takes places [the police] send two officers to view the CCTV and then identify the defendant.
“There are certain safeguards and procedures in place that must be followed when identification takes place to protect all parties. I can say now that none of those were followed by the police officers who made the identification.
“In consequence that rather undermines the prosecution case. Without that the Crown can’t proceed on all counts on the indictment and will offer no evidence.”
Queen earlier pleaded guilty to two separate counts of dangerous driving and was bailed for sentence at Preston Crown Court on February 5.
Mr Jackson told the court how in one of the incidents Queen was driving a Ford Transit van on Burnley Road in Accrington at around 1.50am on August 21, 2013, and ‘accelerated away’ when officers activated their emergency lights. The court heard how officers caught up with Queen as he turned onto Sydney Street and Lodge Lane.
Mr Jackson said: “He then turned onto Windsor Street and then across Burnley Road without any apparent concern as to where there was traffic on the main road.”
Mr Jackson said Queen then went onto Addison Road and Annie Street which is a ‘narrow dirt track’ and ‘was driving both erratically and at speeds of 50mph’ so they abandoned their pursuit.
Officers later found the car abandoned on Nutter Road at 2.26am.
Lancashire Police have confirmed they will ‘review their procedures’ following the collapse of the Benjamin Queen substation burglaries trial.
Crown Prosecution Service representative Wayne Jackson told a jury at Burnley Crown Court that their case had been ‘undermined’ after police officers failed to follow correct identification procedures when Queen was allegedly spotted on a CCTV camera.
Judge Jonathan Gibson ruled that the evidence was ‘inadmissible’ and forced the prosecution to withdraw their case against Queen.
Following the trial, a Lancashire Police spokesperson said: “Lancashire Police acknowledge the decision of Burnley Crown Court in relation to the case v Benjamin Queen heard on January 6, 2016.
“We note the comments of HHJ Gibson that the officers concerned acted in good faith and we will review the procedures followed in the case to ensure that any lessons that need to be learned are done so.”