Judge apologises after sentencing of child rapist is postponed

NEWS from Nottingham Crown Court.
NEWS from Nottingham Crown Court.

A judge has apologised to the Ashfield family of a child victim after a rape and sex offences hearing had to be postponed at the last minute.

Mark Whitehead, 29, of Hucknall Lane, Bulwell, was due to be sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court after pleading guilty to nine charges relating to offences against a girl when she was aged between eight and ten.

Several relatives and friends of the girl had travelled from Sutton, where many of the offences took place, to the court to hear the verdict.

However, with Whitehead in the dock, a furious Judge Stuart Rafferty was forced to adjourn the case because defence barrister, Steve Gosnell, could not be present.

Instead Mr Gosnell was tied up with a trial at Derby Crown Court that had unexpectedly overrun into an extra day because a juror had been taken ill.

An application, made the previous day to put the case back to another court session, had not been processed in time.

Blasted the judge: “This is wholly unsatisfactory, and unforgivable. This case has attracted a great deal of interest from the family of the defendant and, more importantly, from the family of the victim who have come to court expecting a conclusion.

“I apologise to them that this has happened. I will not have these people dragged here again, only to be sent away frustrated. I want a full explanation from Mr Gosnell.”

A colleague of Mr Gosnell, barrister William Bennett, agreed that the delay was “unacceptable”.

“It is with some trepidation that I have to explain how things have gone wrong in such an enormously sensitive and important case,” said Mr Bennett.

The sentencing will now take place before Judge Rafferty this coming Friday (May 27).

Whitehead originally pleaded not guilty to the charges, which relate to offences of rape or sexual assault against the girl or engaging in sexual activity in the presence of the girl. But he changed his pleas to guilty just before a trial was due to start last month.

The offences were said to have happened in either Sutton or Bulwell between January 2013 and June last year.

The girl cannot be named for legal reasons. Whitehead was remanded in custody.