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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Mobile court photo sentence upheld
Mobile telephone with camera , generic
The appeal judges said mobile phone pictures could be misused
A 12-month jail sentence has been upheld on a man for taking photographs with a mobile phone in a courtroom.

The Court of Appeal in London dismissed the 38-year-old Wrexham man's appeal against sentence.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had admitted contempt at Liverpool Crown Court.

A judge at the appeal hearing said there was a growing problem of illegal court photos via the latest generation of mobile phones.

It is clear that illegal photography in court has the potential to gravely prejudice the administration of criminal justice
Mr Justice Aikens

The man is thought to be the first imprisoned in Britain for the offence.

His phone was found to contain a photograph of a man in the dock, alongside security officers, Judge Denis Clark and a prosecution witness giving evidence.

Sentencing him, Judge Clark had said it was a "chilling development" and an example of how technology could disrupt a serious trial.

'Severe sentence'

The man's barrister, Damian Nolan, told the appeal that the one-year jail term was "manifestly excessive" and he could find no previous similar cases.

Mr Justice Aikens, sitting with the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Woolf, and Mr Justice Fulford, said it also appeared to be the first such case to come to the appeal court.

Mr Nolan said the man had not intended to put the photographs to any "nefarious use".

He said the man had made an unreserved apology, no photographs of the jury were taken and they were of very poor quality.

But Mr Justice Aikens said because of the high security surrounding the case, the sentence - while severe - should be upheld.

He said the aggravating feature was the length and seriousness of the trial where the potential for disruption was obvious.

When he sentenced the man Judge Clark had said there was a need to send out a message that taking illegal photos would be met with a prison term.

Dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Aikens said it was well known taking of photos using mobile phones in courts was becoming a major problem.

He referred to the growing problem of intimidation of jurors and witnesses, also noting physical attacks on prosecutors.

"It is clear therefore that illegal photography in court has the potential to gravely prejudice the administration of criminal justice," he said.

He said pictures could be passed on easily and the potential for misuse by others was "very great".




SEE ALSO:
Mobile court photo jailing appeal
30 Apr 04  |  North East Wales



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