A MAN has been put behind bars for failing to turn up at the trial of a relative.

Robert Mullen, of Clydebank, was sentenced to eight months in prison at Dumbarton Sheriff Court on September 12 for what was branded a “deliberate” decision that caused “considerable difficulties” to a trial.

But the 23-year-old’s defence solicitor said her client didn’t go to court because of his own mental health and addictions issues, not an attempt to help his relative.

The male relative faced a trial in August but was ultimately acquitted.

Robert Mullen had been a Crown production witness and had been at court for several days without any support from the procurator fiscal’s office.

Judith Reid, defending, told the court last week that Mullen was first sent into custody on June 17 for failing to appear at an earlier hearing. He had been avoiding a warrant for his arrest since April 23.

Mullen later admitted to being in contempt ahead of the trial on August 19, which ended a few days later with an acquittal for the relative.

Ms Reid said a medical report on her client made clear his mental health has gone downhill.

Mullen was brought to court every day from prison but was never given the chance to give evidence against his relative.

Ms Reid said: “He was not the accused. The Crown would have known Mr Mullen suffers from mental health issues.

“He was here every day to give evidence. No assistance was offered to him in the entire course of this case.

“Mental health has had a clear impact on his decision not to attend court and then to avoid the warrant for his arrest.

“The Crown have made much against Mr Mullen for the actions of his family. It’s my position and Mr Mullen’s that he doesn’t associate himself with that.

“He knew there was a warrant and failed to deal with that. He doesn’t get on with his [relative] and didn’t need to shield him from a jury trial.”

Sheriff Maxwell Hendry pointed out Mullen’s family were refusing to acknowledge where he was and Mullen made a “prolonged effort” to evade capture.

Ms Reid said: “He disputes he was acting to protect his [relative]. He didn’t want to come to court, didn’t want to give evidence.”

Mullen was a first offender and there were no identified risk factors, added Ms Reid. It was a positive social work report and Mullen had hopes of returning to employment. He has lost his degree because of being arrested.

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Ms Reid said: “He has now served the equivalent of a fairly significant sentence for someone with no record and no risk factors. I accept a substantial disruption to the court process.

“Alternatives to custody should be very seriously considered by the court.”

But Sheriff Hendry rejected that. He told Mullen: “You made a deliberate decision not to attend court. You caused substantial difficulties. Substantial time [was spent] trying to track you down.

“While I accept it’s unusual, there’s no alternative to custody.”

Mullen was locked up for eight months, backdated to June 17.