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Contract corruption case thrown out of court

Two men accused of public contract corruption have walked free from court after a six-year investigation against them collapsed.

It was alleged former Stroud District Council housing rehabilitation manager Alan Drain had accepted bribes in return for a council contract – a charge he denied. Co-defendant Simon Hewer, of Gloucester company DJ Hewer and Co, had also pleaded not guilty of attempting to bribe Drain.

The offences, including bribes of building materials and labour, were alleged to have occurred between 2001 and 2005.

But, following the long-running investigation, the case was thrown out after late evidence was submitted and Bristol Crown Court ruled the pair would be unable to receive a fair trial.

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Mr Drain’s legal team asked the judge to rule that he could not get a fair trial because some evidence did not become available until just before the five-week trial was due to begin.

“They argued this would make the trial process unfair as they would not have enough time to consider the new material and defend their client properly. In the particular circumstances of this case, the CPS did not oppose this argument and Mr Drain and his co-defendant were found not guilty.”

Judge Carol Hagen told the court that she was “gravely concerned” by the way the case had been handled.

She said: “This has taken nearly six years. I dread to think of the amount of public funds that has been expended, and the police time also expended.”

Judge Hagen ordered the CPS prosecution team to submit a written explanation to her in regards to the handling of the case.

She said: “I would like to know who was in charge of this investigation at the beginning. And I would like an explanation as to how the case has been conducted. I don’t wish to waste more public funds, I’m not asking for a chapter and verse explanation, I just want to know who was in overall charge, and keeping a watching brief as it were.”