Taxpayer funds $20,000 court case to prosecute man for stealing $.25 banana... and he is found not guilty
Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:52 PM on 07th August 2009
Cleared: James Gallagher was found not guilty of stealing a $.25 banana. But his two-day trial cost taxpayers $20,000
A man prosecuted for stealing a $.25 banana has been cleared after a trial which cost the taxpayer $20,000.
James Gallagher, 23, was accused of stealing the fruit from the Del Villagio restaurant in Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre.
But a jury at Birmingham Crown Court jurors took less than half an hour to find him not guilty of burglary and a lesser charge of theft.
Speaking after the verdict was delivered, Mr Gallagher said: 'It's shocking, it's just a waste of taxpayers' money. I cannot understand how they've got away with it.'
Recorder Mr Shamim Qureshi told the jury before they delivered their verdict: 'It is easy sometimes to think "What is this case doing at the crown court?"
'Today is day two - this theoretically has cost $20,000.
'Our criminal legal system in this country is second to none when compared to many other legal systems around the world, it enables the person to come to the crown court and say I want to be tried by my peers.
'The allegation is one which is burglary and that is always a serious allegation no matter what is alleged to have been stolen in the burglary itself.
'It is fairly easy to make lots of jokes, but do remember it is a serious allegation that the defendant faces.'
Mr Gallagher, who lives in Handsworth, Birmingham, said he was relieved and had chosen a crown court trial because he expected magistrates would have found him guilty.
Mr Gallagher was charged with burglary contrary to the Theft Act.
He was accused of entering the Italian restaurant with Christopher Ogelsby, 22, at 8.45am on March 13 when its deli was not due to open until 10am, and stole a banana.
The jury heard that the shutters at Del Villagio were halfway up and after seeing a member of staff in the store, Mr Gallagher and Ogelsby went underneath them into the store and picked up bananas.
They were already being watched by security officers and were apprehended almost immediately before being arrested.
Ogelsby pleaded guilty to burglary at Birmingham Magistrates Court on March 14 and was given a 12-month conditional discharge.
In Mr Gallagher's defence, Mr Niall Skinner told the court he and Ogelsby were tipsy after drinking until the early hours to celebrate Mr Gallagher's birthday two days before.
He said he had not been given the chance to pay for the goods, even though he had money on him, because the security team had acted and accused him so quickly.
Martin Lindop, district crown prosecutor for Birmingham Crown Prosecution Service, said: 'The Crown Prosecution Service recommended that this matter was suitable to be dealt with in the magistrates' court.
'However, Mr James Gallagher elected trial by jury, as is his right, so the case was heard in the crown court.
'It is not the cost of the item that determines whether we proceed with a prosecution, but whether there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest.
'In this case, we felt that there was sufficient evidence and it was in the public interest for the prosecution to proceed.
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