17 October 2018

A judge has been upbraided by the Court of Appeal for threatening a 14-year-old girl with prison if she reacted to her mother being sentenced. 

Judge Stephen John oversaw the trial of the girl's mother, Natasha Myers, in April. She was convicted of smuggling 11 grams of cannabis, two mobile phones, a SIM card and two charging cables into Wandsworth prison's visiting room in an "orifice", and then to her boyfriend, David Akende, who was an inmate. Guards spotted Akende with his hands down the back of his pants and found the contraband wrapped in clingfilm stuffed up his arse. Myers claimed that someone else gave Akande all his booty except the SIM card, which she admitted passing to him. As Lord Justice Hamblen delightfully described it in the Court of Appeal, "He inserted this into his anus whereas the clingfilm package was between the cheeks of his bottom".

But the CoA has overturned Myers' conviction on the grounds that it was rendered unsafe by Judge Stephen John's bizarre behavour during the trial. The day before Myers was due to give evidence, Judge John withdrew her bail, even though the prosecution had not sought it. His order meant that Myers was taken to the cells in front of her daughter, and with no time to put arrangements in place for someone to look after her daughter or her three-year-old. Guards were sufficiently concerned by Myers' distress that she was placed on suicide watch overnight.

The next morning Judge John told Myers' daughter to apologise for "being rude to him" when he withdrew her mother's bail. When she said sorry, he threatened to arrest her and imprison her if she reacted to his judgment:

JUDGE: Now I'm going to allow you to remain on terms. The first term is you're going to sit in the back row in the far corner of the court and you are not at any time to approach the dock. Do you understand?
GIRL: Yes.
JUDGE: And you are on no account whatsoever either facially or by words to give any reaction to the evidence or the speeches or my summing-up. Do you understand?
GIRL: Yes.
JUDGE: If you do, I'll have the officer arrest you and take you downstairs. And I don't care if you're 14; you'll go into a cell same as anybody else. Do you understand?
GIRL: Yes.
COUNSEL: Well your Honour it might depend on the reaction slightly.
GIRL: I beg your pardon?
COUNSEL: It might depend on the reaction.
JUDGE: Don't lecture me Mr Hadder. I'm speaking to her. Right, now are you prepared to accept those conditions?
GIRL: Yes.
JUDGE: Right, go and sit in that corner seat in the back row and bear in mind what I say.
COUNSEL: I'm grateful that you allowed her into court.
JUDGE: Yes. I'm not going to have the court disrupted by children who shouldn't be in court at all in my view.

Lord Justice Hamblen 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". As well as being likely to upset Myers, it potentially "handicapped her in the continued giving of her evidence."

judge
Judge John, misreading a birthday party.

 

Judge John was also criticised for badgering Myers "in a manner more akin to comment than to questioning" about how much gear she smuggled into Wandsworth up an orifice. One exchange gave the distinct impression that Judge John has no idea how items are smuggled into prison, or, more worryingly, is in possession of a back passage so capacious that he can't comprehend why other people would have an issue carrying around a Phones4U up their fannoir:

Q: Why were you not worried about the SIM card in the same way as you were about-
MYERS: Because a SIM card is tiny. Even though I know it's wrong, you're not allowed to bring it in. I know it's wrong but it's a lot smaller than a phone, a golf ball of - what you say? Cannabis, and all the other stuff. Like it's much smaller than that.
JUDGE: I don't understand; what does the size of it matter if it's a prison contraband that you're not allowed to take in? What does the size of it matter?
COUNSEL: Your Honour, she-
JUDGE: No I didn't ask you.

The Court of Appeal overturned the conviction.

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Comments

Anon 19 Oct 18

Sounds like this judge is totally intolerant and has some anger issues. Would he have been appointed if he had behaved like this at his role-play interview? 

ShootyMcShootyface 19 Oct 18

Nonny, he was probably appointed before such touchy-feely things, and the need to be sunshine and rainbows rather than, y'know, the stern face of the law and all that.

Still, possibly a teeny wee tad over zealous, I'll grant you.

Anonymous 19 Oct 18

@Shooty While I fully appreciate the need for sternness and all that, is it really necessary in respect of a terrified, innocent 14-year old who is seeing her mum go to prison?

Anonymous 19 Oct 18

I am no SJW just a regular straight white guy with what used to be called "normal" views.   But this judge sounds a bit pervy to me.

Gobblepig 19 Oct 18

He sounds like an awful judge.   But, to be fair, I do speak to my three-year old daughter that way (re the "I'll put you in the basement if you look at me funny" bit, not the "what's the biggest thing you can fit up your bottom" bit).

Anonymous 19 Oct 18

Judges are doing great PR for themselves at the moment, what with this and the Fracking twat. Is it any wonder we are on the verge of civil war?

3-ducks 19 Oct 18

Get a grip, people!

This isn't a game; it's the proper administration of Justice. 

She's old enough to understand the concept of contempt. 

Anonymous 19 Oct 18

"proper administration of Justice"??? This man is a judge. He is supposed to remain neutral during the trial, listening to both sides. Punishing the defendant and her young family by cancelling her bail and putting her in jail before the case is over? This is NOT the proper administration of Justice.  

Anonymous 20 Oct 18

Wonder whether the concept of judicial immunity needs to be looked at. This guy could do with a spell of community service.

Je suis Monty Don l’autobus 22 Oct 18

Point of order, the face of the law ought not be “stern” any more than it ought be jovial. The face of the law should be neutral in its countenance and concerned only with the cool administration of justice. That said, anyone who doesn’t think it’s a good thing to take measures ensuring judges have a basic understanding of human beings, doesn’t belong in the modern legal system.

THE LAZ 22 Oct 18

Showing a reaction to a sentence is not contempt of court under any definition of that concept anywhere in the world now grow up 3-ducks please

@rsenic 23 Oct 18

Methinks the judge was going out of his way to demonstrate his unfamiliarity with things being inserted up one's orifices. This calls for an investigation into his, err, background.

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