AN 85-YEAR-OLD Second World War veteran from Bradford failed to have his six-month jail quashed today, after a judge said he had “displayed utter contempt for all lawyers and judges”.
Pensioner Norman Scarth considered most judges he had dealings with to be biased against him and imprisonment was not an infringement of his human rights, said Mr Justice Wyn Williams.
Scarth was jailed at Bradford Crown Court last month after circuit judge Jonathan Rose found him to be in contempt of court, Mr Justice Williams was told during a High Court hearing in London.
He had recorded proceedings in a case at the Crown Court and was summarily dealt with by Judge Rose, the High Court heard.
Scarth, who represented himself and appeared by video link from Leeds Prison, used a piece of ancient common law in an attempt to have his imprisonment declared unlawful by the High Court.
But Mr Justice Williams refused to grant a writ of habeas corpus after ruling that there was no basis on which to conclude Scarth had been imprisoned unlawfully.
Mr Justice Williams said: “Superior courts, such as the Crown Court, have jurisdiction to deal summarily with all types of contempt, including contempt ‘in the face of the court’.
“The recording of proceedings before a court is capable of amounting to contempt if no permission has been obtained.”
He added: “In my judgment, it was open to the judge to conclude that contempt had been committed.”
Mr Justice Williams said Scarth, who told the court that he was a Second World War veteran, had not been legally represented when he appeared before Judge Rose.
“It would have been desirable had a lawyer been appointed to represent (Scarth) in what were summary proceedings for contempt,” said Mr Justice Williams.
“Nonetheless, I am not persuaded that the fact that (Scarth) was unrepresented of itself constitutes an infringement of his (human) rights.”
He added: “Throughout these proceedings (Scarth) has displayed utter contempt for all lawyers and judges. In my judgment, it is unreal to suppose that (Scarth) truly wished to have a lawyer represent him before His Honour Judge Rose.”
Mr Justice Williams said Scarth’s human rights had not been infringed simply because had had been imprisoned at the age of 85.
“It is regrettable that a man of 85 should find himself in the predicament which (Scarth) faces,” he said.
“His age alone, however, cannot be a reason for saying his incarceration breaches his (human) rights.”
Mr Justice Williams said Scarth complained that Judge Rose had been biased.
“There is no evidence to support this allegation,” said Mr Justice Williams. “The reality is that (Scarth) considers all (or, at the very least, most) judges who have dealings with him are biased against him.”
The High Court heard that Scarth had lodged an appeal against his contempt conviction - and Mr Justice Williams said that was the correct course for him to take.
“In the absence of any basis upon which it would be proper to conclude that (Scarth) had been imprisoned unlawfully, or that his imprisonment has become unlawful, I could not grant the writ of habeas corpus,” added Mr Justice Williams.
“His interests are much better served by an appeal to the Court of Appeal Criminal Division.”
Scarth also complained about the conditions at Leeds Prison and said jail bosses had failed to provide him with his “appropriate” medication.
Mr Justice Williams, who heard evidence yesterday and gave a detailed judgment today, said Scarth should make any complaint through the “procedure available” at the prison.
Scarth told Mr Justice Williams he stood for parliament in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, in the 1990s.
He said he had been a “marked man” ever since. Records show that he stood as an independent candidate in 1997 against Labour’s Tony Benn and received 202 votes.
Section 9 (1) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 makes it a contempt of court to take into a court, or use, a tape recorder or other sound-recording instrument, without the court’s permission, and to publish any such recording of legal proceedings.