Man sentenced over mobile phone

NO-ONE can escape the long arm of the law – and the chaos caused by yesterday's A14 crash proved to be no barrier to justice being done.For, as he sat in the miles of tailbacks resulting from the fatal crash, Aftab Ahmed learned his punishment – over the phone.

NO-ONE can escape the long arm of the law – and the chaos caused by yesterday's A14 crash proved to be no barrier to justice being done.

For, as he sat in the miles of tailbacks resulting from the fatal crash, Aftab Ahmed learned his punishment – over the phone.

Ahmed, who was delayed as he tried to get to Ipswich Crown Court yesterday, is believed to be one of the first people in the country to be sentenced over the phone.

The 44-year-old was due to attend the court yesterday morning to be sentenced for an offence relating to his bankruptcy.

On hearing of Ahmed's delay, Judge Caroline Ludlow said she was considering sentencing him by telephone.

She added she was unaware of any legal restrictions preventing her from sentencing the defendant in that way as she was not considering passing a custodial sentence.

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She then instructed Kevin McCarthy, who was representing Ahmed, to contact him on his mobile phone to explain the situation and make sure that he was not breaking the law by using his phone while he was driving.

After hearing mitigation from Mr McCarthy, Judge Ludlow dialled Ahmed's mobile telephone from a telephone in the court.

She then sentenced him to a 140-hour community punishment order and ordered him to pay £750 prosecution costs.

Rachel Bonner, Ipswich Crown Court clerk, said: "The judge indicated to the defence solicitor that she was thinking of passing a community punishment order, and asked the solicitor to ring him and ask if he was comfortable with being sentenced over the phone.

"He said he was, so he pulled over and the judge sentenced him. She spoke to him in open court, and repeated everything he said to the court.

"The judge had to be somewhere else – she had a list at county court – and so she didn't want to incur more costs by adjourning the case again."

Of the unusual nature of the sentencing, Mrs Bonner added: "I haven't heard of that being done anywhere before.

"I personally have arraigned a defendant on the phone – asked them for pleas – but I don't know of a sentence being passed over the phone."

Ahmed, of Summers Road, Bury St Edmunds, admitted failing to explain to the official receiver the loss of £22,500 between the presentation of his bankruptcy petition in November 2002 and the start of his bankruptcy in June 2003.

Mitigating for Ahmed, Mr McCarthy said his client had been influenced by family obligations when he committed the offence.

He said Ahmed was still bankrupt and subject to a bankruptcy order until the official receiver had completed his enquiries which could take a number of months.

Andrew Riley, a partner in Bates Wells & Braithwaite solicitors, who prosecuted the case, said Ahmed was charged under the Insolvency Act.

Last night, Kirsty Brimelow, a criminal barrister and a spokeswoman for the Bar, said: "It's very rare. I've never heard of a case where a sentence has been given out over the telephone. The reason why somebody is sentenced in open court is so there can be an understanding as to what sentence they've received and so everybody can see it.

"Presumably the judge would have made sure that he understood the sentence. It seems a way of saving even more costs which would have been incurred with an adjournment. It seems quite an innovative way of doing things."

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