APPEAL court judges who criticised Bradford’s top judge have been accused of being on another planet for suggesting Bradford does not have a problem with dangerous driving.
The Recorder of Bradford, Judge Roger Thomas QC, has won local praise for his tough stance over dangerous drivers.
He has even told some of those guilty of dangerous driving they were living on “planet Zog” if they believed they could avoid jail.
However, he has now been criticised by Appeal Court judges in London in a case which saw a danger driver he had jailed receive a cut in his sentence.
Judge Thomas had said that Ali Khalid’s dangerous driving was “yet another” case of a young man causing havoc in a powerful car in the city when he jailed the 21-year-old for six months in February for an incident in which he sped off from police and damaged a parked car.
But in an appeal against sentence, Khalid’s lawyers argued that no actual evidence to show a particular problem in Bradford had been put forward, and they had not been warned that the judge might sentence on that basis.
The appeal judges, who cut Khalid’s sentence to four months, ruled Judge Thomas had been wrong to increase the driver’s punishment because of his concerns about a specific problem in Bradford.
They said he needed proper evidence to show there is truly a “prevalence” of dangerous drivers in the city where he sits.
One of the judges, Mr Justice Green said: “We are concerned that the judge appears to have permitted his concerns to have affected his sentencing options.
“We are left with a real concern that an unfair approach has been taken and that the judge’s concerns about prevalence did in actual fact lead to an increase in sentence.”
And Lord Justice Treacy said the crown court judge had been “in error in the approach he adopted”.
But Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, and Sarah Harrison, whose mum was killed by speeding drivers in Bradford, has fiercely criticised the Appeal Court’s decision.
Ms Shah said: “There is a prevalence of dangerous driving in Bradford. To suggest there isn’t when there is a local paper running a campaign and the police running a campaign is absurd.
“Perhaps the judges need to get a reality check of what it is like in Bradford on the ground. Dangerous driving is an absolute menace.
“I would be interested to know which planet the judges were on when they suggested that dangerous driving was not prevalent in Bradford.
“The judges are clearly on a different planet to the ones that reside in Bradford, and to the local police and to the local paper.
“How can the judges say it was not based on evidence when police have started a campaign on it?”
Mrs Harrison, whose mum Mary Byrne was killed four years ago, said: “It is ridiculous. The standard of driving in Bradford is just horrific.
“How many people have been killed or seriously injured on the streets of Bradford in, say, the last five years? The number is too high. And all the arrests the police have made through Steerside - look at those figures.
“It is not fair for someone in London to suggest it is not like that, when it is a major, major problem.
“The police and the judges need support to hand out these sentences.”
Jack Kushner, of road safety charity Brake, said: “Lenient sentences like this send entirely the wrong message.
“When drivers take illegal and selfish actions on the roads, they knowingly put lives in danger.
“Tough sentences send a clear message that behaviour such as this is unacceptable, and provide an effective deterrent.
“Dangerous driving can be lethal, and we need courts and the Government to take these crimes much more seriously.”