Prisoner they found in a cupboard ‘too claustrophobic’ to get in court van

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A claustrophobic prisoner whose case had to be delayed because he refused to get in the van taking him to court has apologised for the inconvenience.

Robert Aitchison, 36, finally arrived at Bradford Crown Court yesterday after prison staff organised a more suitable van to transport him from HMP Leeds for his sentence hearing.

Aitchison, formerly of Dinely Avenue, Todmorden, appeared in court to be sentenced for breaching a restraining order to stay away from his partner’s home in the town.

Prosecutor Andrew Semple said police went to the property in Harehills Avenue last month and during a search of the premises Aitchison was found hiding in a cupboard with a bed pushed up against it.

A judge was told on Thursday that Aitchison was refusing to get in the standard van used by security firm G4S because of his claustrophobia and he was also unable to use a small video link room at the prison.

Yesterday Aitchison’s barrister Howard Shaw said his client was extremely apologetic for any inconvenience caused to the court and suggested that it was a member of prison staff who told the defendant that he could not use the video link room because it was “smaller than the van.”

Mr Shaw described the offence as a “technical breach” and said his client’s partner no longer wanted the restraining order against him.

Judge Colin Burn revoked the restraining order and imposed a six-month community order with supervision after hearing that Aitchison was already making good progress on an existing order. Aitchison, who has been in custody since April 24, admitted breaching the one-year restraining order and a conditional discharge which was imposed in March for an earlier breach of the same order.