CPS racks up £84,000 bill in failed M5 crash trial against Geoffrey Counsell

Somerset County Gazette: CLEARED: Geoffrey Counsell. CLEARED: Geoffrey Counsell.

OVER £84,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on the collapsed trial of fireworks boss Geoffrey Counsell, the County Gazette can reveal.

Mr Counsell, of Ashill, was accused of breaching health and safety laws on the night seven people were killed in a massive pile-up on the M5 near Taunton in November 2011.

The 51-year-old was holding a fireworks display at Taunton Rugby Club on the night and was taken to trial at Bristol Crown Court in November last year, but a judge threw the case out after three weeks of proceedings.

A request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has shown that the CPS racked up costs of £84,058.96, including prosecutors’ wages and witnesses’ expenses.

That figure could rise if a judge orders the service to pay defence costs but a hearing date is yet to be set.

A CPS spokesman said: “We are responsible for paying in-house prosecution staff and meeting the expenses of all prosecution witnesses who attend court, including those who provide expert testimony in their professional field.

“We are also responsible for paying the prosecution advocates.

“Investigatory work and the associated costs fall under the remit of the police, or in this case the council, and the CPS does not hold these figures.

“However, the figure provided does include initial advice work and pre-trial preparation carried out by prosecution counsel in readiness for the trial.”

Somerset County Gazette: Photos of the Taunton M5 crash tragedy

(The scene on the M5 near Taunton the morning after the horrific crash)

Taunton Deane Council said it budgeted £47,000 for the trial, while an FOIA request to Avon and Somerset Police returned saying the costs were still being calculated.

On the CPS website, a mission statement says it will be “efficient and responsible” with taxpayers’ money.

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