Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Mark Berry ("Bez") Case ....

From time to time various "celebrities" appear in the courts to stand trial for serious matters.  Mark Berry - (of  "Happy Mondays" and "Domino Bones fame") - has been before the magistrates' court at Manchester and has been sentenced to 4 weeks imprisonment.  His first appearance before the magistrates was reported by the Manchester Evening News on 28th May where he pleaded not guilty to charges of assault on his partner Monica Ward, using violence to gain entry to their flat and failing to provide a sample for a drugs test.  That is quite a serious package of charges.

The relevant law is not referred to in the media reports but seems to be Criminal Law Act 1977 s6 and Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 s63B - inserted by the Drugs Act 2005 s7.

The Manchester Evening News reported his conviction ( after trial ) on 11th August - here.  The reported facts in the Telegraph article make for interesting reading.  Basically, there was a row over some money and it is reported that Berry squeezed Ward's neck (using both hands) and she told the court that she had been dragged from the kitchen to the front door and that she "feared for her life".  A child was present at the time.  At some point she was able to contact the Police.  Berry left but returned later and forced his way in.  On being convicted by the magistrates he said that this was a "Kangaroo Court".  Sentencing was adjourned with, presumably, a pre sentence report to be prepared.

At the sentencing hearing (see Guardian 26th August and  BBC 25th August ) it appears that the magistrates decided on a community sentence of 100 hours unpaid work plus a restraining order and costs of £450.  I make no comment about that proposal (which would presumably have been based on a pre-sentence report)  though it is reported that the bench chair referred to it as a "relatively gentle attack" and a "technical assault".  However, Berry refused to do the community sentence and was therefore sentenced to 4 weeks imprisonment.  It seems that Berry was not represented by a solicitor or counsel.  Also, Berry's behaviour before the court left a great deal to be desired - (to put it mildly).  He refused to recognise the court's authority and accused the magistrates of ignoring the facts and not listening to the evidence.  Afterwards, it is reported that a solicitor who was present has lodged an appeal on Berry's behalf to the Crown Court.  The outcome of that is awaited with interest.  Appeals against conviction by magistrates are heard in the Crown Court by a Judge who sits with two JPs and the evidence is reheard.

There is an old saying that a person who represents himself before a court has a fool for a client.  Regrettably, they sometimes do themselves no favours.  It is not clear why Berry was unrepresented but it is worth noting that a person has to pass both a means test and an interests of justice test to obtain a legal representation order in the magistrates' court.

Addendum:  He was released on 8th September 2010 - see Manchester Evening News.

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