In the Media

Schoolgirl drink-driver runs riot in court

PUBLISHED March 29, 2006

A girl of 14, appearing in court for a second drink-driving offence, threw a jug of water at magistrates, punched a solicitor and ran around screaming abuse and kicking furniture after hearing that she was going to be detained for four months.

 A few minutes earlier Leanne Black, who has a history of offending, had said she was learning to control her anger.

She was the youngest ever drink-driving offender when she was caught in her father's car at the age of 12 after a Christmas binge. She has since appeared in court for criminal damage, burglary, harassment and breaching a curfew.

Her outburst occurred when she returned to youth court at Newbury, Berks, to be dealt with for her second drink-driving offence, committed when still under a supervision order.

On arrival she pelted waiting photographers with eggs and her mother, Nora, turned her bottom towards the cameras and said: "Go on. Film this". She repeatedly shouted that she was "proud" of her daughter.

In court Black, dressed in a tracksuit, apologised for taking her father's car for a second time after drinking three cans of lager. She said: "I know what I have done to my dad and stuff. I'm working with people. They are trying to help me. I am working with groups and stuff, trying to make my own decisions."

But, when she realised that her solicitor's entreaties had failed, she lost her temper, raced around the courtroom, screamed at probation officers and grappled with members of her family. She punched the prosecuting solicitor, Lesley Gilmore, and threw water at the magistrate and court clerk.

After the hearing, Mrs Gilmore said she intends to press further charges.

The prosecutor was later asked if Black had reminded her of the Little Britain TV character "Vicky Pollard gone bad". She borrowed a line from the comic Catherine Tate and joked: "Am I bovvered?"

After the court tantrum, the teenager was restrained and taken to Newbury police station as magistrates adjourned the case. Later, Black, of Thatcham, Berks, was led back into court wearing handcuffs and flanked by two security guards. Margaret Bates, the presiding magistrate, sentenced her for taking a vehicle without consent, driving without insurance, driving while disqualified and driving with alcohol above the legal limit.

Black was told she must serve four months in a secure training unit followed by another four months under supervision in the community. If she misbehaved the sentence would be lengthened. She was disqualified from driving for 36 months.

Mrs Bates said: "These sentences are necessary because this group of offences is so serious and because of your failure to respond to non-custodial sentences. You have wilfully broken the requirements of previous court orders and we find that you are a persistent young offender."

When given an opportunity to speak Black said: "I'm sorry for my behaviour earlier."

The bench was advised by the clerk that it had no powers to hold a juvenile in contempt of court and it could fine Black only for the courtroom outburst. Such a fine would have to be paid by her family.

Mrs Gilmore had earlier described how Black had shouted obscenities at police when she was stopped at the wheel of her father's car. She had driven off in it without him noticing, after drinking beer at a friend's house.

Her family called police. Officers found Black and arrested her. A breath test showed that she had 44 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. The legal drink-drive limit is 35 microgrammes.

For the earlier drink-drive offence she had been banned and placed on a 12-month supervision order.

Ian Campbell, representing Black, described her as "susceptible to influences". He said she had been working with the probation service on her anger management.

Before the mayhem, Mrs Bates took the unusual step of allowing Black to be named, ruling that public interest in her shocking case outweighed the court's duty to protect a young person.