SHIPLEY MP Philip Davies has vowed to ask questions in Parliament about criminal justice issues after spending a day on the Bench with Bradford's top judge.

Mr Davies, an outspoken critic of judges, took up an invitation from the Recorder of Bradford, Judge Roger Thomas QC, to see the dispensing of justice at first hand.

The politician said his day at Bradford Crown Court had been an eye opener.

Mr Davies said: "Judge Thomas was aware of my public comments, criticising judges for being out of touch and soft, and contacted me to suggest I went to see what happened in court. I had never been to the crown court, and jumped at the chance.

"We discussed aspects of the criminal justice system before and after I sat in court and observed Judge Thomas dealing with cases."

Among the cases dealt with was the sentencing of a woman for her role in a drugs conspiracy. Judge Thomas jailed her for seven years. Another man was imprisoned for assault, after previously being given a number of community orders for offences of violence.

Mr Davies said: "I thought the sentences Judge Thomas handed down were perfectly fair and reasonable, and when I criticise judges in the future it won't be directed at him.

"It was a great insight and gave me the opportunity to discuss some of my concerns about sentencing."

The Conservative MP added: "Seeing some of the issues at first hand, such as getting trials to take place within the custody time limits, was a great learning curve and I have some sympathy with judges.

"There are issues I will be asking about and raising in Parliament."

Judge Thomas said he was glad Mr Davies had sat in on his court.

"One of my frustrations is that so many people have so much to say about the criminal justice system, and say it without really knowing what we do here.

"I am pretty sure that when people do come here they will be reassured we are doing things in a sensible way, and the criticism that we are all out of touch and we are too soft is not the conclusion that people reach if they actually come here."

Judge Thomas said it was right, as an elected MP, that Mr Davies commented on criminal justice matters, and it was sensible that he had gone to his local crown court to see how it worked.

"He was genuinely interested, and it has set up a good line of communication. I have told him that if he has an issue about a case he can raise it with me and I will look at it.

"My plea is for more people to come to court to see how justice works. It is free, interesting and gives an insight into what is actually happening."