THE CORONAVIRUS lockdown has disrupted the court hearing of three teenagers accused of killing Coventry youngster Babacar Diagne by allegedly stabbing him to death.
At a previous hearing the two 15-year-olds and a 17-year-old were told they would be appearing in the dock at Warwick Crown Court for a plea and trial preparation hearing.
But because of the Covid-19 outbreak, no defendants are being taken to the court during the current lockdown – and they were not required to attend over a video link either.
The three young defendants, who are all from Coventry but cannot be identified because of their ages, have been charged with the murder of 15-year-old Babacar on February 5.
That follows the finding of Babacar’s body on a grassed area off Pettitor Crescent, Wood End, during the evening of February 5.
Babacar, who had been riding a mountain bike in the area prior to the attack, was pronounced dead at the scene – and a subsequent post mortem is said to have established that he had suffered multiple knife wounds.
Although, because of their absence, no pleas could be entered for the three youths, it has already been indicated they will deny the charge.
Peter Grieves-Smith, prosecuting, said a trial date had been fixed for September 1, but it was not expected to last as long as had first been suggested, and that ‘three to four weeks is more realistic.’
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano said that defence statements should be served in relation to each defendant by May 29, but accepted it ‘will depend on the ability [of their lawyers] to get into prison to take instructions.’
Colin Aylott QC, for one of the 15-year-olds, pointed out: “We have had two meetings cancelled because of the Covid-19 outbreak, and as of yesterday they were not even allowing any video conferences to take place.”
And Adrian Eissa QC, for the other 15-year-old, remarked: “The same applies.”
Of the proposed date of May 29 for the service of defence statements, David Mason QC, for the 17-year-old, commented: “That gives us 6-7 weeks to get to see our clients, either in person or by link.”
So Judge de Bertodano adjourned the case for a pre-trial review to take place at the beginning of July.
Remanding the defendants in custody, she said the issue of their ‘custody time limits,’ the length of time a defendant can normally be held in custody before standing trial, would also be dealt with at that hearing.