In the Media

School bra-pinger's dad angered by court case

PUBLISHED July 3, 2006

A TEENAGE girl has been convicted of assault - for pinging a classmate's bra.

The 14-year-old's father criticised bringing the case to court, which would have cost taxpayers hundreds of pounds, saying a telling-off at school should have been enough.

The girl was given an absolute discharge when she appeared at Huntingdon Youth Court yesterday (Friday, 30 June) - magistrates said the case should have been dealt with as a reprimand.

An absolute discharge is given when further punishment is deemed unnecessary but it is still a criminal conviction.

The girl's dad said: "What the hell's going on with this country?

"It was a regrettable incident, but this should never have come to court. She had already been punished by us and by the school and that should have been the end of it."

The girl had apologised, been suspended from school and been grounded by her parents for a month.

Her father said she had been shaken by the experience, in which she was DNAtested, had her photo and fingerprints taken and was held in a cell.

He said: "I am over the moon with the outcome. I will be making a complaint to the Police Complaints Authority."

The dad said he did not condone his daughter's behaviour and felt the case, which he said cost him almost ?2,000 in legal fees and time off, should have been handled differently.

He said his daughter would have accepted a reprimand, but police had insisted it included a sexual element.

The teenager, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said: "I felt I learnt my lesson the first time, when it was dealt with at school.

"When I was at the police station I was physically sick. I felt very stressed because I didn't know how this happened and how it was going to turn out."

She admitted assaulting her classmate in a maths class at the Huntingdonshire school last November. She was ordered to pay ?20 compensation.

Tracey Bellingham, prosecuting, said the case was to do with bullying. The victim had gone to the toilet and when she returned, was asked if she had been putting tissue in her bra. The 14-year-old then pulled the front of the girl's bra with a "pinging" motion.

Mrs Bellingham said the victim, who previously complained about bullying, felt upset and degraded by the incident.

Sarah Brinklow, mitigating, said the teenager accepted she pinged the bra and had been made to apologise.

How the figures mount up

THE average hourly rates for Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) staff is ?51 per hour for lawyers, caseworkers cost ?35 per hour and support staff ?30 per hour.

The presentation of a summary guilty plea at magistrates' court costs up to ?104 but this does not include defence costs or police time.

There were two court hearings and if granted legal aid, defence costs would have to be picked up by taxpayers.

The girl was locked up by police for several hours after being arrested and had DNA samples, her picture and copies of her fingerprints taken.

Factoring in those costs a conservative estimate would put the bill at around ?400.

(?104 magistrates ?150 defence ?146 police).

The CPS said it did not compile cost figures for trials.

Other controversies

A WORKMAN charged for putting his shoes on a train station bench branded his trial "ridiculous" after the case was dropped.

Rudolph Mills, 39, was charged by British Transport Police for "soiling railway property" and "interfering with the comfort of other railway users" after he was arrested at Cambridge station.

Mr Mills, of King's Cross, London, pleaded not guilty at Cambridge Magistrates' Court in March and said the case was ridiculous and a waste of everyone's time.

The case was eventually dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service, after it admitted there was no realistic prospect of conviction.

Prosecutors would not reveal the cost of the case, but it is believed to have run into hundreds of pounds.

Mr Mills said at the time:

"The whole thing was crazy, the way they arrested me was like I was a terrorist, not someone who had annoyed the local copper by putting his feet up the bench."

Taxpayers forked out more than ?1,000 to transport a woman with a Zimmer-frame on a 700- mile round trip from London to Cumbria - all for a ?80 fine.

The 56-year-old admitted being drunk and disorderly in a public place and failing to answer bail during the five-minute hearing at Whitehaven Magistrates' Court, earlier this month.

Her travel and overnight stay in custody, costing around ?1,000 was footed by taxpayers.

A former TV presenter who was arrested after running topless through a red light district in London had her charges dismissed.

The 35-year-old, who branded the case a waste of time and money, was prosecuted for disorderly behaviour after being seen on CCTV walking down the street in skimpy bikini bottoms and an open white coat.

Her public show was in protest over her eviction from her flat after a dispute with the landlord.

After a 90-minute trial the case was dismissed.

More than ?170 million of public money is lost annually on scrapped magistrates' court hearings.

More than half the waste is blamed on defence lawyers but ?24 million was attributed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).