A trio of care workers accused of drunkenly breaking patients out of a home to take them to a late night strip show had their trial postponed yesterday.
The trial against the three staff was put off after Dundee Sheriff Court was told one of the complainers had died from Covid-19 earlier this year.
The trio tried to have the case dropped after the Crown admitted they had not brought the other complainer to court to be a witness.
Depute fiscal Lynne Mannion told the court the Crown had only become aware in recent days that Linlathen Neurodisability Centre in Dundee had closed last year.
Lawyers for Caitlin Gibb, Shannon Briggs and Samantha Brunton asked Sheriff James Macdonald to throw out the case because of the time taken to bring them to trial.
They told the court the alleged incident happened in December 2018, the accused were charged in February 2019 and would now be unlikely to go on trial until May 2021.
Gibb, 20, Speckled Wood Court, Shannon Briggs, 23, Finlarig Place, and Samantha Brunton, 34, Balunie Avenue, all Dundee, deny the charge.
All three are alleged to have “ill-treated or wilfully neglected” two patients in their care by taking them out of the centre in the run- up to Christmas 2018.
They are alleged to have attended the Linlathen Centre while they were under the influence of alcohol on December 1 and taken Sandra McGowan and another patient out.
They are alleged to have conveyed the two patients to an adult entertainment show at Baxter’s and allowed them to consume alcohol from the bar without supervision.
The accused are alleged to have consumed alcohol and failed to properly care for the duo.
It is alleged they allowed a “naked, male, adult entertainer to sit on the knee” of one woman while she was in her wheelchair.
The court was told the women deny the charge but accepted they had taken the patients to the show in a voluntary capacity and were not being paid to look after them.
Ms Mannion told the court: “The centre actually closed in December 2019. The Crown did not appear to have that information.
“Unfortunately, the second named complainer, Sandra McGowan, has since died – in the past few months. I think it was a Covid-related death.
“It is not ideal that we get to today and don’t have a complainer here. It was not foreseen by the Crown. It has only come to my attention today.”
Solicitor Jim Laverty, for Gibb, said: “There doesn’t appear to have been a great deal done to have ensured the attendance of witnesses for today.”
Sheriff Macdonald criticised Police Scotland for delays in getting the case to court and for failing to keep track of witness whereabouts when the centre closed.
He said: “This is in effect the first time it has called for trial. Dates in early summer had to be aborted due to the pandemic.
“On any view there has been a significant deficiency in the investigation of these charges. That deficiency appears to pre-date the commencement of proceedings.
“The Crown were not aware of the location of essential witnesses because they had not been alerted by Police Scotland.
“It is that sort of ignorance which forces the fiscal to seek an adjourned trial. On any view it is highly unsatisfactory.
“The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service cannot be directly faulted for this situation. The same cannot be said for the Police Service of Scotland.
“I am only just persuaded that the balance which falls to be struck favours the Crown.” He granted the motion and a new trial date was fixed for next year.