THE Legal Department was not told before a murder trial last October that a key Vietnamese witness had already warned police he would not testify unless moved out of the detention centre where he was being held, a Commission of Inquiry heard yesterday. Crown Counsel Mr Alan Lucas said he had not been given a full picture of the situation. He was only told in vague terms a week before the trial that police were concerned the witness, Mr Bui Van Xuan, might not testify, he said. Presided over by Mr Justice Kempster, the commission was set up to look into why the murder trial was aborted as well as witness protection as a whole. Mr Bui has claimed he was not offered adequate protection. Mr Lucas said he had never been told Mr Bui had signed written statements warning that he would not take the witness stand. The trial had to be aborted on October 26, a week after it started. Mr Lucas said if he had been warned before the trial started when he had a meeting with the police on October 12, he would have taken steps to do something about the situation and would certainly not have waited until a week later when the trial started. He had never been told by the police that they had decided on October 19, after the first day of the trial, that housing Mr Bui and his family in a safe house was inappropriate, he said. As prosecuting counsel he had suggested to the judge, Mr Justice Sears, on October 20 that the option of a safe house be investigated. He said he had been told by the officer in charge of the case, Senior Inspector Chan Chi-seung, it was normal procedure to investigate such an option in such cases. ''I am embarrassed I was allowed to go to court and say the things I did when apparently it [provision of a safe house] had been ruled out before I went to court,'' Mr Lucas said angrily adding that he had not even been told afterwards. He said he had been astounded to have the information relayed to him as a result of the commission's proceedings. He did not consider asking for a nolle prosequi when it became clear that Mr Bui would not be moved to a safe house or another detention centre, he said. The Legal Department's prosecution manual made it clear that the Attorney-General did not look favourably on such requests and he was also told by his colleagues it was rarely granted. A nolle prosequi can be used to terminate criminal proceedings but does not operate as an acquittal. As a result, proceedings can be recommended afresh for the same offence. Earlier the commission heard from Immigration Department Acting Assistant Director, Mr Choy Ping-tai, who said it was legally possible to move a boat person out of the custody of the Correctional Services Department to a police safe house. But the Director of Immigration had not been consulted on the issue, he said. The hearing continues.