A VASTLY experienced magistrate has urged Yorkshire's Chief Crown Prosecutor to intervene over an Appeal Court decision to reduce a dangerous driver’s jail sentence.
Mary Carroll has fiercely criticised top judges in London who concluded the Recorder of Bradford Judge Roger Thomas QC had failed to show proper evidence of a problem with danger drivers in Bradford before sentencing a motorist to six months’ prison.
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Judge Thomas told some of those guilty of dangerous driving they were living on “planet Zog” if they believed they could avoid jail.
But his sentencing of Ali Khalid did not sit well with Appeal Court judges and they cut his term to four months saying Judge Thomas had been wrong to increase the punishment due to his concerns about a specific problem in Bradford.
Khalid had sped off from police and damaged a parked car. His lawyers argued that no actual evidence to show a particular problem in Bradford had been put forward.
But Mrs Carroll, 71, a former chairman of the Bradford Bench, has stood up for Judge Thomas in a strongly-worded letter to Chief Crown Prosecutor Gerry Wareham.
She said: “Having lived in Bradford since 1973 and also having served the city as a magistrate for 32 years, I can attest to the shocking and deteriorating standard of driving in the city.
“In all my years as a member of the judiciary, I have never questioned the decisions of the higher courts, recognising the years of experience and wisdom of senior colleagues and also the fact that those who hear and see all the evidence, almost invariably, are best placed to make judgements.
“However, in the case of Ali Khalid in which the Appeal Court criticised Roger Thomas for his sentencing, I feel I cannot stay silent.”
Mrs Carroll said the case seemed to hang on what was meant by evidence.
She said the “ordinary meaning of the word relates to that which is plainly obvious, visible or conspicuous”.
READ MORE: Full text of Mary Carroll's letter
VIDEO REPORT: No evidence of a problem? Take a look at this
She added: “Surely, all members of the judiciary are expected to use their common sense and local knowledge.
“Judge Thomas is a local man, familiar with the city and, for that reason, was given the job he has done so well for the last four years.
“Surely, he cannot be expected to disregard the evidence of his own eyes and ears; evidence brought daily into the Bradford courts, that the city is plagued with mindless ‘boy racers’ who create havoc and carnage on our roads leaving many families grieving over the senseless loss of innocent loved ones.
“These asinine individuals are supremely confident in their own driving skills, wholly indifferent to the fear and the distress that they cause to other motorists and have absolute blind faith in their own invincibility.
"They find ever-more creative ways of avoiding paying motor insurance, ignore driving bans and derive their enjoyment from ‘jumping’ red lights, driving counter clockwise on roundabouts, mounting pavements, using the wrong carriageway, ignoring no entry signs and seem to think that engaging the police in a ‘chase’ is a great way to spend an evening.
"The only way they seem to learn is the ‘hard way’, when they end up in prison (not too hard, really) or if they kill or maim someone, for life, particularly if the victim is a young friend or relative.
“The situation is so bad that the police and press have tried to engage the public in assisting their campaign to put an end to this scourge, in the widely publicised Operation Steerside.
“But, maybe, in the eyes of the Appeal Court, this is not ‘evidence’; in which case, I say that these particular Appeal Court judges must be blind and have totally failed to deliver justice to the people of Bradford.”
Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South, said: “There is a clear issue with dangerous driving in Bradford. The punishment needs to fit the crime.
"I have worked with the police on this matter and have called for tougher sentences for dangerous drivers who make our roads unsafe for other drivers and pedestrians. The law needs to change to reflect the devastation that dangerous driving causes to the people of Bradford.
"Local judges who understand our area need to be backed up, not undermined.”
Imran Hussain, MP for Bradford East, said: "Throughout my two years in Parliament, I have been a strong campaigner for tougher, more robust sentencing for dangerous drivers, and for sentencing that delivers justice for the victims, so I fully support the efforts that are being made by both the police and the justice system in Bradford, who have the experience and the knowledge of the district necessary to clamp down on dangerous driving."
Mrs Carroll’s daughter, Julia Carroll, lives in Little Germany, and backed her mum’s claims about the state of driving on Bradford’s roads.
Ms Carroll, 44, said her flat overlooks Shipley Airedale Road and that she goes through the same thing every night with drivers.
“I ask these appeal court judges to spend the night in my apartment and listen to them revving their engines,” she said. “Every night you can hear them, from 9pm onwards into the early hours.
“I would hypothesize that a lot of them would be uninsured or not in their own vehicle.”
“To these appeal court judges, I say, come and spend a night in my apartment and tell me Bradford doesn’t have a problem with dangerous driving.”
She also said she had stopped to help people involved in crashes, saying: “I have stopped to assist at three incidents on Shipley Airedale Road."
A CPS spokesman said Mr Wareham had yet to receive Mrs Carroll's letter.
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