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Penelope Gibbs @PenelopeGibbs2
, 14 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
This tale of injustice is caused by a judge's prejudice against a defendant & her child. Thanks to @F_E_Smith (anonymous like @barristersecret) for drawing attention. I'm not going to name the judge because I'm against naming & shaming individuals - the problem is system
Credit to… for appealing this case which rested on the poor behaviour of the judge leading to an unfair trial. Case was against the partner of a prisoner for smuggling items into prison.She pleaded guilty to smuggling a sim card but denied bringing in drugs
She has two children aged 3 & 14 for whom she was a full time carer at the time of her trial & had been granted bail. In April she was found guilty of all charges & imprisoned fr 18 months. In Sep her conviction was set aside by the CoA due to the unfairness of the original trial
I don't know if the judge was just having a bad few days, but my concern is that judges can behave in such a manner with the only redress being that the conviction was quashed after a woman had spent 5 months in prison, during which two children had to cope without their mother.
The first problem arose when the judge in the trial appeared to encourage the defendant to plead guilty. "At the close of the Crown's case he told the appellant's counsel in open court to give the appellant "robust advice" due to the strength of the evidence
& that it would be "too late to say anything realistic on her behalf once the jury returned". Defendant maintained her innocence, despite a Goodyear direction that she faced up to 30 mths in prison. The judge then decided that because of this, defendant was at risk of absconding
The prosecution made no application for denial of bail & the defendant had been on bail for many months. She had made no arrangements for the care of her 3 & 14 year old children. Despite this & the unlikelihood of a mother absconding, the judge remanded her with immediate effect
Not surprisingly, her 14 year daughter who was in court was upset & remonstrated with the judge. Mother was remanded. The next day when the 14 year old girl appeared again in court to watch mother give evidence the judge threatened to arrest her & imprison her in the court cells
the exchange between the judge & the 14 girl whose mother was in prison & facing months more of imprisonment has to be read to be believed - see attached.
CoA (not surprisingly) said it was "not appropriate for the judge to threaten to send a 14-year-old girl to the cells at all, let alone for a mere facial reaction to the evidence, speeches or summing-up". It also criticised the way the judge commented on the defendant's evidence
This is a shocking case. The judge appeared to have made up his mind that the defendant was guilty, & was impatient that she would not plead . He may have been having a bad week. But his treatment of a child who was about to be deprived of her mother was totally unacceptable
But my broader point is that the appeal system shd not be only way of getting redress, nor is it a good way of getting judges to behave differently. Most defendants do not have the energy & confidence to appeal, particularly if the appeal relies on criticising judicial behaviour
Most poor judicial behaviour is not so poor it meets the evidential threshold for appeal. We need some mechanism so lawyers can feedback re poor behaviour of judges. We need to help judges improve their practice without forcing them onto the defensive.
They need feedback, appraisals, reflective practice. Trust in our justice system depends on judges treating defendants fairly & with courtesy… The case is here… but please don't focus on the individual- it's the system which is broken
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