By TOM BRISTOW
Friday, July 20, 2012
Norwich’s newest judge said yesterday it was important for his profession to show its human side when dealing with criminal cases.
Speaking on his first full day at Norwich Crown Court since being called to the circuit bench, Judge Mark Lucraft said judges had been given a more human face over his 27 years in the legal profession and he said it was important for them to consider the human effects in cases they dealt with.
Judge Lucraft said: “Judges are human beings and sometimes they give the impression they are aloof from the society they are part of. I would like to think judges have become more human, or given a human face.”
Judge Lucraft also gave his backing to plans to make the court system more hi-tech.
Norwich Crown Court was one of the first courts in the country to trial a “paperless” system in December, and Judge Lucraft said he would use his laptop and iPad in court.
He said: “If you look around to most other industries, most have had to adapt to modern technology and go digital. I’m all in favour of it.”
Judge Lucraft has joined the Norwich Crown Court from London chambers, 18 Red Lion Court, where he worked as a barrister on some of the most high profile cases in the country.
He was part of the team investigating fraud following the death of Robert Maxwell – the media mogul and former MP who was found dead in 1991 by his luxury yacht in the Canary Islands.
He said: “I was instructed about a week after he disappeared. It was the most interesting case I dealt with.”
The 50-year-old was involved with the Maxwell case for seven years and also worked on the investigation into allegations British Airways and Virgin Atlantic were price fixing passenger fuel surcharges.
In 2007 BA admitted it had colluded with Virgin Atlantic in fixing the charges on long haul flights from August 2004 to January 2006.
BA was fined £121.5m which was reduced to £58.5m, while Virgin escaped without a fine after reporting the scandal to Office of Fair Trading.
He was also instructed to prosecute manslaughter and health and safety charges from the Hatfield rail crash in October 2000, in which four people died and 120 were injured.
Born in Southend, he studied law at Canterbury and went on to law school to study to be a barrister.
Judge Lucraft was called to the bar in 1985 and spent most of his career specialising in fraud cases and road accidents.
He applied to become a judge after his experiences of hearing cases as a recorder.
He said: “I have sat quite a bit as a recorder and I enjoyed the challenge of sitting.
“It is very different from being a barrister.”
Judge Lucraft will commute each day from Ely, where he lives with his wife and three sons, aged 23, 21 and 17.
He said: “I’m expecting to see the complete range of criminal offences that take place in Norfolk.”
In a speech at the court on Wednesday, Judge Nicholas Coleman welcomed the “injection of fresh judicial blood”.
With Judge Alasdair Darroch and Judge Peter Jacobs, recorder of Norwich, nearing retirement, more changes at Norwich Crown Court are likely.
Judge Coleman said: “We all hope, and indeed expect, you will embrace and continue all that is good in the administration of justice of this renowned crown court.
“We all recognise that times are difficult.
“Court staff numbers are reduced. The bar is under pressure. Yet through it the system doggedly persists in delivering first class justice. I’m sure you will contribute handsomely to that precious commodity which we all hold dear – namely a fair trial for all accused, no matter what they are said to have done.”