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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Burglary charge dropped against brain-damaged north Cumbrian teen

A burglary charge against a teenager brain-damaged after a car crash seven years ago has been dropped after a judge twice questioned why he was being prosecuted.

Zak Alan James Hawman, 19, of Ellen Close, Wigton, still suffers psychological problems caused by the head and back injuries he suffered when, at the age of 13, he was thrown from a Renault Laguna which smashed into a tree on the A591 at Bassenthwaite.

His elder brother James, who was 23 at the time, was also flung from the car and spent several days on a life support machine after one of his lungs collapsed.

In March this year Zac Hawman pleaded not guilty to burgling the Old Convent in Wigton and stealing a iPod docking station in a break-in last August.

Had he gone on trial as expected at Carlisle Crown Court he would have found it difficult to follow the proceedings, would have required frequent breaks and would probably have needed an intermediary to sit with him in the dock.

Judge Barbara Forrester had previously asked the Crown Prosecution Service to reconsider whether, in the circumstances, it was in the public interest to prosecute him – especially as he had not been in trouble before.

Yesterday prosecuting counsel Charlotte Atherton said that after a psychiatrist had established that Hawman was well enough to stand trial, she and a senior CPS lawyer had decided the case should go ahead.

But Judge Forrester instructed Ms Atherton and the CPS to reconsider the case afresh. She questioned what would be achieved and whether Hawman could ever be convicted since the only evidence against him came from another man alleged to have been involved in the burglary.

After further consultation, Ms Atherton said the case was being dropped because of “evidential difficulties”. She offered no evidence and Hawman was formally found not guilty.

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