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More than 11,000 criminal trials in England and Wales had to be abandoned last year because witnesses pulled out or did not appear at court reports the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate..
In 2014-15, for numerous reasons, more than half of the 195,000 trials listed in magistrates and crown courts did not go ahead as planned, the report said.
The inspectorate found a rising number of prosecutions were “cracked” – which is the term used for a case that closes unexpectedly because a witness is absent or has withdrawn evidence.
This happened in nearly 800 crown court trials and in 10,600 hearings in magistrates’ courts.
The inspectorate said a “powerful tool” to persuade someone to testify was a summons which makes attendance a legal requirement.
But it said summonses were being used inappropriately for more than one in 10 witnesses in domestic abuse cases.
An HMCPSI spokesman added: “A witness summons is the last resort for those who disengage from a prosecution and should only be considered when all other avenues have been exhausted.”