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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 17:48 GMT
Butler's acquittal prompts new inquiry
Scales of Justice
Why did these cases ever come to trial?

In one sense, it is possible to put a price on the failed prosecutions of the two royal butlers.

It has cost the taxpayer at least two million pounds.

That is the total bill for all the time spent by the police and lawyers over the past two years pursuing allegations against Paul Burrell and Harold Brown.

More difficult to quantify is the cost to the reputation of the criminal justice system.

Questions are being asked about how the two cases ever came to court, given what has now emerged about the flaws in the Crown's case against the two men.

After the collapse of the trial of Paul Burrell, an investigation was set up by Sir Michael Peat, an aide to the Prince of Wales.

As the trail of Harold Brown approached, the Crown's lawyers urgently began their own review of the case.

Inquiries

They asked for the trial to be delayed until the outcome of the palace investigation. But the judge objected, prompting the collapse of the second trial.

Harold Brown
Harold Brown: Cleared after two-year investigation
Now the Metropolitan Police has announced it is holding an inquiry into the way its officers investigated the two cases.

Suddenly, there are inquiries on all sides, but so far few answers to the questions about what went wrong.

One thing has become clear. The decision to offer no evidence in the case against Mr Brown was taken personally by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Originally, when CPS lawyers considered the case, they would have looked at the police evidence and weighed up the chances of securing guilty verdicts.

According to their own guidelines, they would have had to satisfy themselves that there was "a realistic prospect" of a conviction before allowing the prosecution to go ahead.

What tilted the balance was the sensational collapse of the trial of the other royal butler, Paul Burrell.

Key evidence

The unprecedented intervention by the Queen, who recalled a crucial conversation with Mr Burrell, destroyed the Crown's case.

Paul Burrell
Paul Burrell: His talk with the Queen was crucial
Questions are still being asked about why this key piece of evidence only emerged late in the day, half way through Mr Burrell's trial.

But even before this revelation, the Crown's case against Mr Burrell was looking shaky.

Police officers had to admit in court that there was no evidence that Mr Burrell had profited in any way from the items he removed from Kensington Palace.

Yet they had previously told Prince Charles that some of Diana's possessions had been sold abroad.

Then came the revelation that Mr Burrell had told the Queen he was looking after some of Princess Diana's belongings. The case was halted and the charges were dismissed.

Jewellers

The question then became whether the second trial could or should go ahead.

Sir Michael Peat
Sir Michael Peat: Reviewing palace role
Crucially, Harold Brown had told police that Mr Burrell had authorised him to sell a jewel-encrusted model of an Arabian dhow, given to the Prince and Princess of Wales as a wedding present.

It was the appearance of this item in a London jewellers that prompted the police investigation.

During the past week, it became clear that there was a discussion going on behind the scenes among the lawyers, but all the indications were that the trial would proceed in front of a jury.

Then today the Crown admitted that following the trial of Paul Burrell, the balance of the weight of evidence had "significantly shifted".

Embarrassment

The Old Bailey was told there was no longer a realistic prospect of convictions in the case of Harold Brown or Jan Havlik, the jeweller accused of handling the items.

The former chief of Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Scotland, Bill Taylor, will now conduct the internal police inquiry into the handling of the two investigations.

The Police Federation insisted today that officers had produced "compelling evidence" but could not have known that the Queen would intervene.

But the fact remains that two high profile cases have ended in the most embarrassing way for the police and prosecutors.

And the role of the royal household remains under scrutiny as the new inquiry begins.

Even before the latest developments, some MPs had expressed concern about a possible "whitewash" and called for an independent investigation into the whole affair.

Those demands are likely to be renewed.


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