Cornwall marine engineer is free as all criminal charges are dropped after a year behind bars

A Cornwall man has been released from jail after more than a year behind bars and all charges against him have now been dropped. Richard Wills, 54, has been accused of sending malicious and threatening emails to nearly a dozen people – including at least two Devon and Cornwall police officers.

His sisters have described the ordeal as ‘traumatic and bizarre’ as it is confirmed he will not face further charges. The Crown Prosecution Service said the marine engineer had been remanded to a series of prisons but would not face further prosecution. They say it’s because weeks before his trial he was sectioned by court order – although he has since left the psychiatric unit of his own free will.

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Mr Wills’ sisters, Joanne and Samantha, told CornwallLive he had lost his home, car and job but was “finally back with his family”. Mr Wills, who has repeatedly denied all charges, was arrested in January 2021 and later charged with 11 counts of sending electronic communications – namely emails – which carried a threat to 11 different people in Devon and Cornwall. The alleged offenses took place on multiple dates between February 20, 2020 and December 16, 2020.

Those believed to have received the threatening emails include a St Austell-based police inspector, a Launceston-based chief inspector, a police appeals handler, a civil servant, a police officer in Liskeard, a physiotherapist , a Plymouth alderman and member. staff of the Criminal Case Review Commission. Mr Wills of Mill Road, Millbrook, Torpoint, first appeared at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court on January 18, 2021, where the court ordered trial by jury at Truro Crown Court, with the next hearing due on February 16, 2021.

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In July 2021, Mr Wills was the subject of a psychiatric report by a consultant general and forensic psychiatrist. Their report noted that “Mr. Wills’ main area of ​​business was marine engineering and computer aided design and he had an excellent reputation in the boat building industry”.

The psychiatrist’s detailed assessment concluded that Mr Wills was ‘fit to plead and stand trial’ despite their opinion that he suffered from ‘a mental disorder, in particular…persistent delusional disorder’. Mr. Wills was taken into custody and magistrates were told that the time limit for custody would expire on September 13, 2021.

The case was then transferred to Bristol Crown Court where a citation hearing was due to take place in November and a trial scheduled for November 15 with a time estimate of five days. However, there were further adjournments, Mr. Wills’ custody was extended and he was taken into custody again.

His case unexpectedly returned to Bristol Crown Court on Monday January 10 for a bail hearing – although Mr Wills still has no legal representative or requested the hearing. At this point, the number of charges against Mr Wills has fallen from 11 to just three and one trial date has been fixed for 2 March 2022 at Bristol Crown Court.

According to the sentencing guidelines, the maximum sentence for the offense in the Crown Court is two years or a fine or both. However, court records show Mr Wills did not attend the hearing in person with the court, later telling CornwallLive he did not appear on the video link as he was due to be transferred at around 150 miles to a mental hospital.

It is understood the paperwork in court suggests that on the day a judge ordered a psychiatric report on Mr Wills to be carried out. He was later transferred to Cygnet Hospital in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, which has medium and low security wards.

But CornwallLive has now learned Mr Wills left hospital of his own free will. However, activists picked up the case and reportedly raised it with Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez.

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “The defendant faced three counts of sending communications with the intent to cause distress or anxiety. In February 2022 , the accused was transferred to a hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983.

“In accordance with our continuing obligation to review the case under the Code for Crown Prosecutors, the CPS has decided that the prosecution is no longer in the public interest. The effect of this decision has been to terminate to prosecution.”

Mr Wills’ sisters, Joanne and Samantha, said: “It has been very traumatic and bizarre. Richard was jailed for a year without trial and repeatedly denied bail. He has then was suddenly transferred to a secure psychiatric unit 265 miles away and given anti-psychotic medication.

“All charges were later dropped and it took an independent assessor to confirm that he had no mental health issues as previously claimed. This whole process was very obstructive. He lost his home, his car and his job, but is now finally back with his family. We are grateful to everyone who helped and supported Richard on this nightmarish journey.”

Since November 2021, our sister site PlymouthLive has made a number of requests to Devon and Cornwall Police for information about alleged offences. No information was given until the force was informed that the CPS had dropped the case.

At the time, a police spokesperson said that following the CPS’s unexpected decision: “We are unable to comment on the case, or discuss a suspect named in accordance with guidelines of the College of Policing”.