A JUDGE has criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for pursuing the case of a mental patient who allegedly assaulted two police officers almost four years ago.

Ross Morris, 40, previously of Starcross, was cleared of two counts of assaulting an emergency worker by a jury at Exeter Crown Court.

He had been deemed unfit to plead and was not in the dock or able to give evidence on his own behalf. 

At the end of the trial, Recorder Mr James Freeman said he was considering ordering costs against the CPS because he considered there had been no public interest in prosecuting the case. 

Mr Morris’s illness meant the case was heard under special procedures in which the jury decide whether he committed the act rather than returning conventional verdicts of guilty and not guilty. The same provisions allow only three possible sentences; a hospital order, a community mental health order, or an absolute discharge. 

Recorder Freeman chose not to make a costs order, but told the prosecuting barrister: ‘While I do not make the order, I hope you will be passing on the lack of public interest that there was in pursuing this case. Even if he had been found to have done the acts charged, it could not have resulted in anything other than an absolute discharge.’ 

The CPS decided to carry on with the case even though a more serious allegation of assault against a woman earlier on the same night had to be dropped because she became seriously ill and was unable to give evidence. 

One of the two police officers allegedly assaulted told the jury he had made a further statement withdrawing his complaint because he did not think the case was in the public interest.

Mr Morris, 40, formerly of Starcross, was arrested during a brief struggle with two police officers in New Road, Starcross, just before midnight on August 16, 2020, only a few weeks after the end of the first Covid lockdown. 

The jury reached their decision after hearing the two officers had no knowledge of his history of mental illness when they went to investigate an allegation he had assaulted a woman.

Mr Simon Burns, for Mr Morris, told the jury the police on the night were not aware of his psychiatric history or how he may perceive their actions as an assault. He said the jury could not be sure he was not acting in self defence. 

** This article has been edited since publication. The mother of Ross Morris has asked us to make clear that her son was never a patient at Langdon Hospital, Dawlish, as we reported, and says he is not receiving ongoing health care. The information was presented to Exeter Crown Court and published in good faith, but we are happy to clarify.