Judge slams social services over fraud case delay

A judge has hit out at social services after a benefit fraud trial in Londonderry had to be put back because of delays caused by the big freeze in December.

Judge Piers Grant said the reason given for a backlog in investigating benefit fraud cases was “completely and utterly unacceptable”.

At the Crown Court in Derry yesterday, the judge had been told the trial could not go ahead because of a backlog of internal investigations within the Department of Social Services, which had been caused by the cold snap.

A defence barrister told Judge Grant that, as a result of the delay, he was unable to proceed with the trial, which was scheduled to have started today.

Judge Grant said it was “completely and utterly unacceptable on the day before a trial was due to start that the court is now told that enquiries made recently indicate it may be |several months before the case can proceed”.

He said he expected an official from the department to appear before him to explain the reason for the delay.