Judge tells Blunkett to 'butt out'

A district judge told David Blunkett to "butt out" after the Home Secretary said he sympathised with a builder who dug up a speed hump with a JCB.

Brian Loosley said the Home Secretary's comments could have influenced the case against Ian Beesley, who was convicted at Oxford Magistrates' Court of criminal damage.

Beesley, 42, denied the charge on the grounds that he was protecting his right to enjoy his property but was found guilty. The builder and his wife Lillian, of Oxford, suffered weeks of sleepless nights caused by the noise of lorries going over the hump before he dug it up in November last year.

Beesley was given a one-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £263.32 compensation to Oxfordshire County Council and £500 prosecution costs.

On the first day of Beesley's trial yesterday, Mr Blunkett said: "I am sorry he felt he had to do it. As someone who has been bedevilled in the past sometimes by sleepless nights I have to say that I have a great deal of sympathy for him. I am sure in court he will be big enough to apologise and the council will be big enough to find a solution."

But as he passed judgment today, Mr Loosley said: "I am not sure politicians should be making remarks about court cases when they are in progress."

He highlighted the case of former Tory Cabinet minister Tom King, whom he said had caused an IRA trial to be abandoned after making comments on TV.

He added: "I had to think carefully this morning about whether what Blunkett said yesterday was going to affect my decision in the case. Politicians should butt out of these cases until they are over, then they can make as much comment as they like."

The Home Secretary's official spokesman responded: "This seems a bit of an over-reaction given what the Home Secretary actually said. Comparisons with the collapse of an IRA trial hardly seem appropriate.

"The Home Secretary was commenting in general and expressing a view that he hoped the individual would apologise and that could offer a way forward."

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