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Behind-the-scenes drama as second trial flounders.

THE ill-fated prosecutions of two royal butlers accused of stealing from Princess Diana's estate has cost the taxpayer an estimated pounds 2m - and British justice its good reputation.

Sharp criticism followed the collapse of the trial of Diana's butler, Paul Burrell, after royal intervention destroyed the Crown's case.

Now a lengthy investigation into a second royal servant, Harold Brown, has also ended with a formal acquittal at the Old Bailey.

Questions have already been asked by senior politicians and law officers on the way the cases were pursued, the parts played by members of the royal family, and why the prosecutions went ahead.

Prince Charles's private secretary Sir Michael Peat has since launched a palace inquiry not only into the Burrell affair, but also allegations of homosexual rape and the alleged sale by staff of the royal family's unwanted gifts.

The last line of inquiry might have overlapped issues in the case of Mr Brown, which a jury might be asked to consider. Aware of this, the prosecution began its own ``miniPeat'' inquiry into these issues as part of their on-going review of the Brown case.

On Tuesday last week - when Brown's defence team were going to ask for the trial to be delayed because of the publicity surrounding the Burrell case - the Crown announced this inquiry. William Boyce QC maintained it would be more limited and quicker than Peat's and the December 2 date set for Brown's trial need not be delayed.

But December 2 came - and went - without a trial getting under way. Instead and ironically, it was the prosecution, now, who asked for a postponement - until the conclusion of the Peat inquiry.

The prosecution said their own inquiries had not been sufficiently conclusive. To enable their proper review of the case, they now wanted to wait until the conclusion of the Peat inquiry.

Brown's defence counsel, James Townend QC, rigorously objected, as did co-defendant Jan Havlik's barrister, Timothy Langdale QC. The case was already two years old, they said. It had had to wait the outcome of Burrell's trial - which itself had been delayed so it would not run during the Queen's jubilee celebrations.

The Recorder of London, Judge Michael Hyam agreed that ``Justice delayed was justice denied'' and refused the prosecution's request for an adjournment until next February.

Mr Langdale had told him the defence had been very patient while the prosecution were considering their position. He noted, ``Whatever the language, the prosecution have apparently been unable to reach a settled decision on whether to proceed in this case or not.''

Another factor thought to have played a part in the decision was that the police inquiry into Mr Brown was conducted by members of the same team which investigated Mr Burrell.

Although the Government would not have been directly involved in deciding on whether Mr Burrell or Mr Brown should face trial, their law officers, the Attorney General and the Solicitor General, were probably kept informed.

Prince Charles's aide attended a meeting with prosecutors as Mr Brown's trial loomed.

The prosecution held late-night and early-morning meetings on their ultimate decision shortly before the case was finally aborted.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 4, 2002
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