Prosecutors are to be pressed for answers after 12 charges against a man accused of flouting street drinking laws were dropped.
Joseph Lynch was stopped by police officers in Motherwell on a string of occasions in April and May this year and was due to face trial at Hamilton Sheriff Court.
However, his not guilty pleas were accepted and he was free to go. Lynch (34), of Talisman Crescent, Motherwell, also had an assault charge dropped while further assault and breach of the peace charges were withdrawn during his trial.
Drinking in public places is illegal and while many offenders get a fixed penalty some, like Lynch, end up in court.
A Crown Office spokesman said the charges were dropped only after ‘full and careful consideration of the facts and circumstances’, but wouldn’t comment further.
However, Motherwell and Wishaw MSP John Pentland described the outcome as ‘hard to understand’.
He said: “Police and fiscals will have spent a lot of time and resources preparing the charges and evidence, while police have been asked to operate a zero tolerance policy on drinking in the street.
“When a case is dismissed it undermines the policy and wastes time and resources.
“There is bound to be a suspicion that cases are dropped because courts are in disarray with backlogs following court closures, so if there is a good reason why they didn’t proceed with the charges and call witnesses, I’d like to hear it.”
A court observer said police officers were unlikely to have been in court waiting to give evidence. They would have been ‘on standby’ but told not to venture from their office in case they were called to court.