A TOP judge has branded prosecutors ‘incompetent’ after it failed to book an interpreter for a racial assault trial.

The Recorder of Chester Judge Elgan Edwards said half a day had been ‘wasted’ at Warrington Crown Court on Thursday when Lee McDonnell’s case could not be heard.

Prosecutors had overlooked ordering an interpreter to help McDonnell’s Sri Lankan victim Nadarajah Niranjan, who speaks Tamil, give evidence.

A furious Judge Edwards said: “It’s a scandal – an absolute scandal. It’s just sheer incompetence.

“Does Warrington Crown Prosecution System not take seriously these type of offences?

“This case cannot continue because somebody has not had the common sense to ask if an interpreter will be needed.”

Witnesses including police officers were asked to return on Friday when an interpreter would be available.

And Judge Edwards ordered Warrington CPS to pay half of the defence costs for the day – £75 plus VAT for the defence costs.

He added: “This case was fixed for a plea and case management hearing on June 22.

“It is quite inconceivable that the prosecution has not bothered to find out if an interpreter is required.

“The prosecution is gravely at fault in this matter and a great deal of time has been wasted.”

A CPS spokesman said: “The victim made his original witness statement to the police in English and, prior to trial, the CPS wrongly assumed that he did not need the assistance of an interpreter.

“The need for an interpreter only became apparent when the victim was spoken to at court. A genuine misunderstanding occurred in this case which was immediately addressed by the CPS.”

“An apology has been made to both the victim and to the court.”

McDonnell, of Norley Close, Bewsey, admitted a charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm but denied racially aggravated grievous bodily harm.

A jury heard how the 21-year-old, who wore black tracksuit bottoms, a black hooded top and trainers in court and had a shaved head, assaulted the 34-year-old shopkeeper on Scott Street on November 7 last year in a ‘motiveless, mindless attack’ of ‘thuggery’.

Mr Niranjan suffered a broken cheekbone, which later required surgery.

McDonnell was arrested after he left his mobile phone in the shop and the attack was captured on CCTV.

He was found not guilty and will be sentenced in August.