A BARRISTER has expressed concern that a frail pensioner accused of killing his wife at their Stourbridge home is unlikely to stand trial until next year.

Pargan Singh Bhandal’s case has already been delayed because of the COVID-19 lockdown, which has meant medical reports would not be ready in time for a proposed trial in July.

Bhandal, aged 83, of Trehernes Drive, Pedmore, has been charged with the murder of his 82-year-old wife Gian Kaur Bhandal on January 22 or 23.

During a hearing at Warwick Crown Court which Bhandal, who is on bail after initially being remanded in custody, was not required to attend, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano said: “What we need to do today is fix a trial date.”

Told that the court’s listing officer had given a date of January 4 next year, Bhandal’s barrister Sallie Bennett-Jenkins QC responded: “This is a defendant of very considerable age who has already found his trial date adjourned.”

She said the January date would cause her ‘considerable difficulty,’ in addition to concern for Bhandal, who she described as ‘an elderly gentleman who is not in the best of health.'

Miss Bennett-Jenkins pointed out: “When he was sent to the court in custody it was sent to this court because it was the only court with a disabled custody suite.”

But with Bhandal now on bail, with a condition of living at an address in Cradley Heath, she proposed: “We wonder whether a search of other courts could be made to bring forward the date.”

Judge de Bertodano told her: “I can ask. But I have very little hope in the current circumstances, when we are the only court on the circuit doing trials at all, that any other court is going to be clamouring to take a four-week class one trial off us.

“All I can do is ask, but I think we have to assume the answer is likely to be no. We may be left with the 4th of January.”

Richard Smith QC, prosecuting, asked whether, in that case, the trial could be delayed until January 6 because of a commitment he had at the beginning of that week, and the judge agreed.

And suggesting there be a further hearing next month, Mr Smith said the prosecution was waiting for psychiatrist Dr Nicholas Kennedy to examine Bhandal to consider a report on his ‘fitness to plead’ prepared by Dr Dinesh Maganty on behalf of the defence.

Miss Bennett-Jenkins added that November 9 would be the ‘preferred date’ for the trial, adding: “It may be we are absolutely stuck with the 4th of January, but I would ask the court to consider that date.”

Judge de Bertodano adjourned the case until July 13 for enquiries to be made, expressing the hope that the report on Bhandal would be ready by then.

At a hearing in March, Mr Smith had suggested the ‘primary issue’ in the trial may not be whether Mrs Bhandal had specific injuries but when they occurred.

A report was being prepared by a pathologist specialising in bone injuries, which he said was ‘essential to the prosecution’ because it would deal with the timing of Mrs Bhandal’s injuries.

During a hearing in the magistrates’ court in February, prosecutor Baldev Singh Atwal outlined: “At 11.13 on the morning of the 23rd of January, West Midlands Ambulance Service received a 999 call from Bhandal’s son reporting the discovery of his deceased mother in the bedroom at the address."

After paramedics had attended the police were informed – and a pathologist’s examination disclosed that she had a fractured sternum, a broken arm and several broken ribs, it was alleged.