A top judge has blasted the “ridiculous” backlog of criminal court cases after being forced to spare a paedophile jail – and fumed: “How this is justice is beyond me.”
Judge Patrick Thompson made the damning remarks as he was sentencing a 71-year-old man for possessing indecent images of children at Chester Crown Court.
The case of Gary Shields had taken nearly three years to get to court on Tuesday (14/6) despite him admitting the charges at the time.
Judge Thompson branded the delays “absolutely farcical” and said it made his job “impossible” and even led to judges being labelled as “nonces.”
He said: “There have been 27 cases of this nature that have taken more than two years to reach the court.
“It’s absolutely farcical and it makes the judge’s job impossible.
“It also leads to criticism from the public when these sentences are published in the press – we get told that judges are complicit, that they are nonces and all this.
“If it’s a case that they need more money – my council tax seems to go up every year and I don’t see any extra police officers on the streets.”
How is this justice?
The court heard Shields, of Wythenshawe, Manchester, was arrested by police on July 9, 2019 and was found to have downloaded more than 1,000 indecent images.
But police hadn’t completed a schedule to analyse the exact nature of what the images were, although 148 of them were classed as category A – the most serious.
Judge Thompson added: “We’ve waiting three years and we still don’t know how bad these images are.
“How this is justice is beyond me.
“The delays have been ridiculous and no fault of the defendant, who would have gone to prison if this matter had come to court earlier.
“Quite rightly, that’s what the public expects in cases like this involving deplorable images.
“There is a list of poor excuses from the police, but you will be the beneficiary of that.”
Judge Thompson said it was “quite right” for the public to expect prison for such defendants but the delay in bringing the matter to court meant Shields’ time behind bars would be suspended.
He was instead given an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for two years and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.
Shields admitted looking at the images for around two years, telling officers he was “fascinated” but at the same time “disgusted” by them.
Sentencing, Judge Thompson said: “Quite what on earth was going on in your mind is beyond me.
“You should hang your head in shame.
“These children are only being abused because men like you have a perverse sexual interest in viewing the images.
“Hopefully you will realise how disgusting and reprehensible your behaviour has been.”