THE Correctional Services Department (CSD) should have admitted to errors it made in a murder trial and saved taxpayers millions of dollars that had to be spent on a Commission of Inquiry, it was claimed yesterday. Counsel for the commission, Mr Adrian Huggins QC, said that if the then Acting CSD Commissioner, Mr John Ashworth, had admitted to the Legislative Council Security Panel last October that his department had made a mistake in its handling of a key witness, the matter might have been resolved there and then. The commission was set up following concern expressed by legislators about key Vietnamese witness Mr Bui Van Xuan's refusal to give evidence after he claimed he had not been given adequate protection. The Crown then offered no evidence on October 26 and the accused, Mr Nguyen Van Bau, was acquitted. The Commission received a $7.6 million grant. Mr Ashworth has told the commission that the move by one of his officers to only offer Mr Bui protective accommodation in Victoria Prison for the duration of a murder trial was ''crazy, foolish'' and something that did not make operational sense. But when he appeared before the Security Panel four days after the trial was aborted, he argued that his department had done everything that it possibly could. Mr Huggins said yesterday that there was no question that Mr Ashworth was not well aware of the error before the meeting. In his closing submission on the commission's final day of hearing, Mr Huggins said that the central and crucial error was made by the CSD when it only offered Mr Bui temporary accommodation in Victoria Prison, which the latter argued was perfectly reasonable for him to refuse. He told Mr Justice Kempster that the errors made in handling the murder trial by the police and the Attorney-General's Chambers were secondary. Mr Huggins said the attempt by Mr Ashworth and Assistant Commissioner Mr Cheng Chi-leung to blame Senior Superintendent Ivan Wong Yee-lai for a ''misunderstanding'' on how long Mr Bui should be held in Victoria Prison was ''unattractive and not altogether successful''. He questioned why Mr Ashworth did not acknowledge the error made by his department at the meeting with the Security Panel. He also questioned why Mr Cheng had not acknowledged it at a Security Branch meeting on November 3. The principal police failure, he said, was not to investigate the option of a safe house and to liaise with the CSD about protection for Mr Bui. With regard to the Attorney-General's Chambers, he argued that the errors were in large part the result of the lack of information from the police and the CSD. The commission also heard submissions from counsel for the Commissioner of Police, Mr Andrew Macrae, and counsel for the Attorney-General, Mr Gary Plowman, who both defended the actions of their respective departments. A second part of the inquiry should start in mid-April to look at the general issue of witness protection. There will be no public hearings although Mr Justice Kempster may interview specific parties for further information. His findings on the aborted murder trial are expected to be put to the Governor on April 2, with a final report due on May 12.