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Gloucestershire Business News

Defendant chose prison gym over court appearance

A judge was annoyed on Monday (August 1) to be told that a defendant due to be sentenced for a catalogue of offences had decided to work out in the prison gym rather than face court.

And it was not just defendant Lewis Trenchard, 22, who was absent from the video-link hearing at Gloucester Crown Court - so was his barrister, Jason Aris, who was taking part in industrial action called by the Bar.

Exasperated Judge Ian Lawrie QC adjourned the case till August 10, after asking a prison officer to warn Trenchard that he faces an extra sentence for being in contempt of court by failing to attend the hearing.

Describing Trenchard as an 'idiot' for his behaviour, the indignant judge added "He's in a prison - he can't pick and choose which establishment he goes to!"

Trenchard, of Buckshaft Road, Cinderford, Gloucestershire, was due to be sentenced via the video link from HMP Parc in Bridgend, South Wales, for offences of racially or religiously aggravated harassment, causing £264 worth of criminal damage, sexual assault of a woman in Cheltenham, shoplifting from Tesco in Cheltenham, indecent exposure, also in Cheltenham, and using threatening or abusive behaviour.

The case was listed before Judge Lawrie on Monday afternoon and a video link had been booked to the prison but when the connection was made only a prison officer could be seen on screen.

Judge Lawrie asked where Trenchard was and the officer said "He's in the gym. A colleague went to collect him and he said he is not coming."

The judge retorted "Can someone explain to him that without good reason for failing to attend - and being in a prison gym is not a good reason - I can give him an extra sentence for contempt of court if I get confirmation that he has been asked to come and has refused.

"He is going to get some extra prison time for this ridiculous attendance at the gym today."

The judge then queried why there was no lawyer at court to represent Trenchard and was told that his assigned barrister, Mr Aris, is taking part in ongoing national industrial action by members of the Bar seeking better payment for legal aid work.

"He has emailed to say he will not be attending due to industrial action," said prosecutor Ieuan Callaghan.

The prison officer on the video link then told the judge that Trenchard had been spoken to in the gym and had said he was not attending because he had understood the case would not be going ahead today in the barrister's absence.

Judge Lawrie asked how far the gym was from the prison video link room and was told about 15 minutes.

"The irritating attitude of this defendant doesn't mean I should put officers to extra work or indeed exercise to speak to him again," said the judge.

"But he must be told that it doesn't matter if the case is going to be adjourned or not, he is duty bound to attend. This is not the way to encourage a judge to be lenient. "

Adjourning until August 10, the judge said he wanted Trenchard to be brought to court for the next hearing, not just produced in front of the video link. He said the case would go ahead that day even though Trenchard's barrister is not available to attend on that day either, for reasons which were not given to the court. His diary was said to be full for the next couple of months.

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