Image from BBC News
The tram offence
West pleaded to racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress at Croydon Crown Court.
I’m sure you remember the YouTube video. Emma West was filmed on a mobile phone shouting racist abuse whilst on a crowded Croydon tram last year. She could be heard to shout things such as “you’re not English”, “get back to your own countries”, and “What has this county come to? A load of black people and a load of f***ing Polish.”
The BBC reported that the video had been viewed 11 million times.
The prosecution stated that passengers were upset by her comments and some described themselves as being disgusted and shocked. The BBC reported that “David Martin-Sperry, defending West, said the defendant’s offending was out of character, she was taking anti-depressants and she does not harbour any racist views.
Mr Martin-Sperry said she had unwittingly taken two and a half times the recommended dose and drunk a large glass of wine before launching the tirade.”
There were questions over West’s mental health and that is presumably why the case has taken so long to conclude.
The court heard that she was ‘reeking of alcohol’ at the time of the offence.
West was also sentenced for other matters committed whilst on bail. The first was assaulting a PC. The circumstances are unknown. The second was stabbing her husband in the back, at least twice, with an ornamental knife. She pleaded guilty to both last month.
It has been reported that her husband continues to support her.
The Judge reported said that West was clearly suffering from mental health problems at the time of the offences and spoke of having a certain amount of sympathy for her condition.
She was given a 2 year community order and bound over to keep the peace.
It is unclear what requirements were added to the community order.
A bind over to keep the peace is a very old common law power (not created by Parliament) which is thought to have its roots in Anglo-Saxon times. On complaint of any person (here, the CPS) a court can require any person (not just a defendant, a witness can also be bound over) to enter into a recognisance (a security) to be of good behaviour and to keep the peace. The purpose is preventive, in a similar way to a suspended sentence.
For a bit of history, check out the Justices of the Peace Act 1361, which created a statutory power to bind someone over to keep the peace.
The bind over should be for a finite period and so it is likely that it will run concurrently with the community order, for 2 years.
Arguably the bind over is unnecessary as any behaviour which would constitute a breach of the peace would likely be an offence, which would put her in breach of her community order. In such a circumstance, she could be brought back before the court and re-sentenced for the original offence.
The BBC reported that she also received a mental health treatment order for the other matters. It is likely that this is some slightly inaccurate reporting and is in fact a mental health treatment requirement as part of a community order.
It is nice to see some sensible sentencing decisions. Clearly this woman needs help, not locking up.