THE TRIAL of a 16-year-old accused of stabbing teenager Nasir Patrice to death during a confrontation in Leamington has been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The teenager, who is from the Lewisham area of London but who cannot be named because of his age, has pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to 17-year-old Nasir’s murder.
He has also denied the attempted murder of a second young man who was also alleged to have been stabbed during the incident in Tachbrook Road on January 15.
His trial with three other young men who face associated charges, Richard Talawila, Abraham Kombey and a 17-year-old, had been due to start at the court on June 8.
But at a pre-trial hearing Judge Andrew Lockhart QC, the court’s ‘Resident Judge,’ who had been due to hear the trial, said it could not take place on that date.
In addition to facing the murder and attempted murder allegations, the 16-year-old, Talawila, 18, of Northwick Avenue, Harrow, Kombey, 18, from Erith, south-east London, and the 17-year-old, from north-west London, have denied charges of kidnapping and perverting the course of justice.
The trial was expected to last for three weeks, but Judge Lockhart explained that, with none having taken place during the Covid-19 lockdown, trials were due to be heard again at certain courts, including Warwick.
But he said that would begin with ‘a single-handed case with simple issues,’ because of the need to maintain social distancing in court.
“We anticipate hearing one trial a week, and no multi-handed trials.”
Judge Lockhart said the trial of the four defendants could therefore not take place in June – and because of other ‘class one work’ listed between September and December, there were ‘no slots at all’ for it to be listed before then end of the year.
“The earliest date I think I can offer is February 22 next year.”
On hearing that, one of the four defendants, who were appearing via video links from two young offender institutions, interjected: “That’s way too long!”
But prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC responded: “I have understood the reasoning. I recognise we are in an exceptional situation.”
And Christopher Surtees-Jones, for the 16-year-old, said: “I acknowledge we are in unusual and untested times.
“However, I have to say on behalf of (the defendant) who faces the two most serious of the counts, that he is only 16 years old, and February is a very long time away.”
But Judge Lockhart said it would not be possible to list the trial any earlier either at Warwick or at another court.
And Mr Hankin pointed out ‘material has emerged’ in relation to events prior to the killing, which was currently being investigated by the police, and the evidence being gathered needed to be assessed.
So Judge Lockhart adjourned the case for the trial to begin on February 22 – but ordered that there should be a further pre-trial hearing in July.
He remanded all four defendants in custody until then.