The Crown has dropped three Dundee drugs cases because it did not want a pair of undercover police witnesses to be identified.
The officers were to give evidence in a case about the sale of two £10 bags of heroin in the Charleston area of the city.
Jean Ross, 57, of Brownhill Street, and her son Scott, 33, of Court Street North, were charged with being concerned in the supply of the Class A drug at the Brownhill Street address in 2011.
The prosecution sought a witness anonymity order because the cover of the officers would be blown if their real identities were revealed in the witness box.
Charmaine Gilmartin, for the Crown, said drug trafficking was a serious crime, and the alleged offence was the sale of diamorphine worth £20, which was detected in a more general operation.
The two officers work undercover and don’t always deal with criminality at the lower end of the scale.
It cost money to train the officers, and the order would protect operational effectiveness.
She said: “If the order is not made they will have to be removed from undercover work… There is a risk to their families and colleagues.”
She added that where undercover officers are used there is always a risk because of the nature of their activity.
Defence advocate Claire Mitchell said the two officers had gone into Charleston and bought controlled drugs for £20. She acknowledged drug dealing is serious, but argued this case was at the lower end of the scale.
She argued the Crown was not saying the two accused were involved with a high-level organised gang and witness anonymity orders should be granted for cases where there was high-level dealing and risk of “real harm”.
The Crown had to show that the police officers had “a reasonable fear of death or injury” and the Crown had not done so.
Sheriff Alastair Brown said it was not enough for the Crown to say there is a need to protect the identities of the witnesses.
Information had to be presented about the actual risk, and it had to be a charge of serious criminality with evidence about actual covert human intelligence activity.
This was not a case where covert human intelligence activity was an issue.
“So far as I have been told it is only about two police officers making a test purchase. The fact that the officers are usually deployed in a covert capacity does not place them in a special category.”
He refused the motion.
A Crown Office spokesman said proceedings against Jean and Scott Ross were reduced from solemn to summary level.
“It is the duty of the Crown to keep cases under review and, following careful consideration of legal arguments during this case, Crown Counsel concluded that there should be no further criminal proceedings”.
The case was linked to two other drugs-related cases involving the same issues.
As a result of losing its witness anonymity argument in the first one, the Crown has abandoned the other two.