John Alford arrives at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court ahead of his trial for attacking two police officers
Former TV star John Alford has had his case for assaulting two police officers adjourned saying he hadn’t yet seen video evidence taken on police body-worn cameras.
The 47-year-old former Grange Hill and London’s Burning actor, whose real name as John Shannon, who appeared unrepresented at Highbury Corner Magistrates, now faces trial in late January.
Shannon, who also had three top 30 hits in the UK, has admitted criminal damage to a bin lorry during the incident in a street near his home in Holloway, north London, in September 1.
Visibly agitated during the hearing, he pleaded to magistrates: ‘I’m sorry to waste the court’s time, it’s the last thing I want to do.
‘I’ve just received the body cam footage from the CPS two days ago.
‘I’ve tried three DVD players, two TVs and there’s nothing on these CDs.
‘I find myself asking for the court’s mercy and for more time so I can view the body cam footage with my solicitors.
‘I had a meeting with my new colleagues at Hacked Off who had instructed solicitors for me and they will be representing me, a solicitor called Mark Watts.’
When the prosecutor said all evidence had been posted to Shannon weeks before, he insisted: ‘I think my learned friend is a bit confused about the timescale. They haven’t showed me anything, they haven’t sent me anything.’
The application to adjourn was opposed by the prosecution but magistrates refused and bailed Shannon to return to the trial on January 29.
This was despite prosecutor Matthew Groves and the court clerk warning them case law stated delays in criminal cases were ‘scandalous’ in law.
Alford played Billy Ray in London’s Burning (right in left-hand picture) after appearing as Robbie Wright in Grange Hill in the late 80s (right)
Chair Caroline Wagner said: ‘While we note the CPS complied with all releases of evidence and all evidence was served including the body worn and the unused in a timely manner… unfortunately this coincided with a change of solicitors and a slow appointment of an alternative. This case is adjourned until the 29th of January.’
Shannon, who appeared clean-shaven, with short hair wearing a black suit and dark shirt with an undone top button, said: ‘Thank you, have a nice Christmas.’
Prosecutor Matthew Groves told the court the video footage was sent in a format intended for lawyers, that would be ‘difficult’ for a lay person to play.
He confirmed the CPS received an email from Shannon’s new lawyers, Cartwright King Solicitors, asking for an adjournment last Friday.
Mr Groves said the email said: ‘Mr Shannon has parted ways with his previous solicitors. We have only been instructed in this matter yesterday.
‘It showed up on Mr Shannon’s case yesterday, the 27th of November and its content was reviewed by the reviewing lawyer who makes a number of observation in respect of it.’
Mr Groves explained the CPS sent papers including links to body worn video to Shannon’s then solicitors Lewis Nedas two weeks after his trial date was set on October 1.
The solicitors firm applied to revoke their representation for Shannon to the court on October 30.
Mr Groves said: ‘So some time has then elapsed before Mr Shannon instructed the new firm of solicitors who have contacted us saying they were instructed on the 22nd and so the first query really that that raises is why did it take three weeks to approach a replacement firm of solicitors?’
He added: ‘Notwithstanding that Lewis Nedas no longer represents Mr Shannon or in the circumstances there were no longer representing him, the reviewing lawyer posted hard copies of the prosecution papers… including links of body worn footage and unused material to his home address on November 12.
‘Mobile telephone footage of part of the incident to which this trial relates was sent to him on the 21st of November again in the post.
‘But that material was effectively a duplicate material that was widely available in the public domain in any event.
‘Effectively a member of the public has provided the footage that is exhibited in the case to news media that has then been put out in the internet.
‘So the exhibit that the defendant might have relied on in trial was freely available but we served it in any event.
‘So from the Crown’s perspective the evidence in its entirety went to Mr Shannon’s former solicitors when there was a good two weeks for instructions to be taken.’
Alford muttered and shook his head in court before Mr Groves opposed the adjournment and offered to play the three video clips, which were between five and eight minutes long, to him before the trial started.
Mr Groves pointed out to law saying delays in trials were ‘scandalous’ and added: ‘The Crown oppose the adjournment on the basis that we are ready for trial, I’ve got four police officers outside and as far as the Crown are concerned we have served everything relied on.’
Disclosure of further documents of ‘unused materials’ was sent to the firm on November 3.
Former President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Tom Bingham in 1990 ruled: ‘It has been said time and time again that delays in the administration of justice are a scandal, and they are more scandalous when it is criminal proceedings with which the court is concerned.’