AN ISLE of Wight Crown Court judge tore a strip off a barrister and the London law firm he represented following a comedy of errors, which led to wasted costs to the public purse.

It happened during the case of Keith Heselton, of Mulberry Mead, Whitchurch, Hampshire, who was brought to the Isle of Wight from HMP Winchester, for a routine plea and trial preparation hearing, yesterday.

He was due to plead to two charges of rape, together with three charges of sexually assaulting a girl, two of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, and a further two of causing or inciting a girl to engage in sexual activity.

It is alleged the victim was aged 13 years and under, namely eight years old at the time of some of the alleged offences, and that the offences date back more than 16 years, to between June 30, 2005, and March 11, 2006.

However, the 63-year-old had been brought before the court having not been given legal advice from the law firm he instructed, namely 3 Temple Gardens (3TG), and that his barrister, Brad Lawlor, turned up 154 miles away from where he was supposed to be — in Newport, South Wales.

To make matters worse for the red-faced barrister, he was unable to explain why 3TG, who were supposed to supply counsel for the prosecution, did not do so.

Mr Lawlor explained, by video link from Wales, notification to a colleague from within the firm came at too short notice to take up the case.

Vexed judge, Recorder Malcolm Gibney, apologised to the defendant.

"It appears your counsel went to Newport in Wales," said Recorder Gibney.

"There is no excuse why there was no prosecution either. It should not happen."

Mr Heselton did not improve the judge's mood by saying he had not had a conference with a 3TG solicitor, despite being notified of proceedings on the Island a week before.

"This is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs," said the judge, who demanded 3TG explain, in writing, why things had gone so wrong.   

"These are very serious charges that attract a custodial sentence, so he needs to have advice.

"Not insignificant costs to the public have been wasted today — no less by him being brought over to the Isle of Wight."

The judge remanded Mr Heselton in custody to reappear on November 21 and ordered counsel to attend in person, with a video link prohibited.

In a parting shot at the barrister, the judge said: "I'm sure it won't be lost on you that it is at Newport, Isle of Wight."