(Court of Appeal; Ward and Wall LJJ; 26 October 2009)
A 10 year-old-girl made allegations concerning sexual abuse by the father and a third party, who was a vulnerable adult with severe learning difficulties. The vulnerable adult was not joined as a party to the proceedings, but a witness summons was served on him. He did not surrender to the warrant, and was arrested. When he came before the court he was given leave to intervene in the proceedings. The day after the vulnerable adult was found fit to instruct lawyers, he sought an adjournment of the fact-finding hearing, because of the late instruction of his solicitors and counsel. The judge refused to adjourn the hearing.
The appeal was allowed. The judge had erred and had been plainly wrong to give such little weight to the vulnerable adult's right to a fair trial.