Norman Scarth freed as Bradford contempt sentence cut

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An 85-year-old World War II veteran who was jailed for six months in July for recording court proceedings has been freed by the Court of Appeal.

Norman Scarth, of Bradford, West Yorkshire, was jailed at Bradford Crown Court on 26 July for contempt of court.

He had used an audio device hidden in a pen to record crown court proceedings.

On Friday, three judges quashed the sentence and substituted one of 12 weeks, resulting in his immediate release from Armley prison in Leeds.

The appeal judges had heard evidence about Scarth's mental health.

Lord Justice Pitchford said: "Having had the benefit of information about the background, which was not available to the judge... we are quite satisfied that the public interest is not served by the continued imprisonment of this 85-year-old man."

Stream of abuse

He said that did not in any way reflect upon the correctness of the decision made by the judge at the time.

The decorated Royal Navy veteran, who followed Friday's proceedings in London by video link, said: "Thank you my lord" as Lord Justice Pitchford, sitting with Mr Justice Wilkie and Mr Justice Holroyde, announced the decision.

The appeal judges heard that Scarth, of Anvil Court, Manningham, Bradford, had been assisting a litigant in a case at Bradford Crown Court on 26 July.

Scarth, who is hard of hearing, was frustrated about hearing exchanges and launched into a stream of abuse, particularly aimed at a female usher, when asked to show the court the pen.

Lord Justice Pitchford said Scarth suffered from a delusional disorder, could be loud and argumentative, and was a conspiracy theorist.

He said it was perfectly clear that the continued incarceration of Scarth, who has always refused medication, was having a "deleterious effect" on his mental health.

"He is an unusual individual in that the nature of his personality disorder means that he is not one of those who is likely to see the error of his ways and, to use technical language, purge his contempt."

It was a serious contempt which would make a six-month sentence entirely appropriate in the case of a younger and fitter man, he added.

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