A judge said today he was driven to halt proceedings against four care home workers charged with neglecting elderly residents due to several failures on the part of the Crown Prosecution Service.

In a 42-page ruling, Judge David Ticehurst said two employees at Newsham House, in Gloucester, and two directors of ADL Plc, owners of the care home, would not have a fair trial if the prosecution went ahead.

Judge Ticehurst said his decision to halt the prosecution was sorrowful and a matter of "considerable regret", as those who resided at the home were "the most vulnerable in society".

Explaining why he stayed the proceedings as an abuse of process at Bristol Crown Court last week, Judge Ticehurst said the CPS was "misconceived" in its approach to the case.

The service failed to disclose documents to the defence counsel, failed to "particularise" its case, and there was a "considerable delay" with the prosecution, the judge ruled.

The CPS has seven days to decide whether to appeal against this ruling.

The five defendants, which included ADL Plc, were all charged on indictment containing 43 counts, in relation to eight patients.

Managing director William Davies, of Chippenham, , and operations director Pearl Jackson, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, faced nine and eight charges respectively.

Nurse Heather Bolton and care home manager Derek Youds, both from Gloucester, faced eight and 10 charges respectively. ADL Plc faced eight counts on the indictment.

Outlining his decision, Judge Ticehurst said: "Whilst the power to order a stay is an exceptional course and not one to be undertaken lightly, in my judgment the cumulative effect of the several failures on the part of the Crown lead to the inevitable conclusion in my judgment that the defendants are unable to have a fair trial and it would be unfair for them to be tried."

He continued: "There has been a failure to comply with the duty of disclosure on the part of the crown.

"In a case where much of the evidence is documentary that is a woeful failure given the length this investigation has been in being.

"The Crown has singularly failed to particularise its case despite numerous requests by the defence and the order of this court.

"In this case there are five separate defendants who between them face 43 counts on the indictment in relation to eight separate patients.

"In my judgment the Crown's approach to the prosecution of this case has been misconceived."

Judge Ticehurst added there had been considerable delay in the prosecution of the case. The investigation was triggered by complaints made in 2003.

Defence counsel previously said their submissions to halt the prosecution were made "more in sorrow than in anger."

Judge Ticehurst said he adopted those sentiments.

He went on: "Those who resided at the home were among the most vulnerable in society."

He added: "It is a matter of considerable regret that I am driven to the conclusion that the cumulative effect of the failures on the part of the prosecution means that this case cannot proceed further.

"My decision is not intended in any way to undermine the position of these extraordinarily vulnerable people who were cared for in that home."

A spokesman for the CPS said: "We shall be going through the judgment with counsel and will respond in due course."

Allegations of neglect were first put to the police in September 2003 from a patient's relative.

A decision to undertake a full investigation into the home was made in 2005, with a senior crown prosecutor assigned to the case in July of that year.

The defendants were arrested in March 2007 and charged on September 4 of that year.

They first appeared at Gloucester Magistrates Court in November 2007, and have since made four more court appearances.