Newtownards courthouse

A SEXUAL assault case against a Millisle man has collapsed after the alleged victim withdrew because of the length of time it has taken to bring the case to court

Over two-and-a-half years after alleging she had been sexually assaulted by a Millisle man, the woman dramatically withdrew from the case on Monday morning as it was about to open at Ards Magistrates’ Court.

Her decision sparked sharp criticism of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) by District Judge Mark Hamill who said the length of time the woman had to wait was ‘nothing short of a disgrace’.

Mr Hamill also said it was ‘alarming’ that at ‘no time’ had counsel from the PPS consulted with the complainant ahead of the contested hearing on Monday morning.

As a result of the woman’s withdrawal, Mr Hamill found the defendant in the case not guilty of the assault.

After years of delay and many adjournments, the defendant was due to face a contested hearing at the court on Monday. However, early in the day Judge Hamill was informed the complainant in the case, who is also from Millisle, had not attended court.

He passed the matter to allow inquiries to be made, and was later informed a police officer had called at the woman’s home. She told the officer she would not be attending court as she believed the matter had ‘dragged on too long’, and no longer wished to pursue the complaint.

Judge Hamill, noting the case had been adjourned numerous times since 2022, said the woman ‘has a point’ and he was ‘not at all surprised’ the complainant had withdrawn from the court process.

Irrespective of the merits of the charge, the judge said the wait the complainant had to go through was ‘nothing short of a disgrace’.

He said nobody from the prosecution had consulted with her and her ‘treatment has been a disgrace and I am not the slightest bit surprised that she has withdrawn from this process’.

Judge Hamill dismissed the charge against the accused, saying it was a ‘not guilty verdict’.