THREE Vietnamese men accused of running a cannabis factory have had the case against them dropped – because an interpreter was not available.
The trio were alleged to have been in possession of cannabis with a street value of £185,000 following a raid on the premises in Auchtermuchty, Fife.
But a judge at Dundee Sheriff Court threw the case out on Tuesday this week after a Vietnamese interpreter was unavailable.
Ngoc Anh Duong (26), Minh My Ho (20), and Long Van Le (22) walked free following the bungle.
Although the Crown Office says it has not ruled out future proceedings, the case has led to claims that the SNP government is running an “amateurish” and “incompetent” Scottish justice system.
The alleged cannabis farm, on an industrial estate in the town, was raided on Friday following reports of a strong smell of cannabis coming from inside.
The three Vietnamese nationals were due to appear before a sheriff at Dundee on Monday.
An interpreter, for reasons that have not yet been explained, was unavailable that day. Lawyers for the accused said they were unable to take instructions from their clients.
The following day, the sheriff threw out the case against the men.
Scottish Conservative north east Scotland candidate Alex Johnstone said: “This was a serious crime and the fact the case was dropped due to a lack of interpreter highlights the SNP’s incompetence on justice in Scotland.
“I’m sure most law-abiding adults will be shocked by this outcome.
“What sort of message does this send out to others?”
Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Amateurish errors such as this clog up the court system and costs taxpayers dearly.
“It’s patently obvious that in order for the courts to operate properly and fairly, defendants have to be able to understand the proceedings and it beggars belief that this has been allowed to happen.”
A Crown Office spokesman said: “The issue in this case arose because an interpreter was not avaialble at court on Monday 25th April.
“The outcome does not prevent future criminal proceedings.”
The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS).“It is not the responsibility of the SCTS to provide an interpreter for a custody hearing.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Three Vietnamese men were scheduled to appear at Dundee Sheriff Court on Monday 25th April, charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
“This case required the support of interpreters due to the nationality and language difficulties with regard to the accused.
“In this instance there was an initial delay in securing the appropriate interpretation services and following consultation with COPFS an interpreter was made available for the men’s subsequent appearance at Dundee Sheriff Court on Tuesday 26th April.”
It was revealed in 2009 that the Scottish Court Service have spent more than £3m on interpreters in the last five years.