UUP MP’s testimonal “crossed the line on the independence of the court”

A testimonal provided by former UUP leader, and current MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone, Tom Elliot, in the case of a former soldier who was caught driving while disqualified, has been criticised by a Northern Ireland District Judge, John Meehan, for having “crossed the line on the independence of the court”.  As the BBC reports [added emphasis throughout]

District Judge John Meehan did not name Mr Elliott in court.

However, the judge said the testimonial “crossed the line on the independence of the court”.

Mr Elliott’s letter made a case for the man to be spared a suspended sentence.

The judge said that, “to trespass upon the very sentencing process is as though to influence the court“.

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP’s letter was written for 37-year-old Andrew David Scarlett, of Granville Road in Dungannon.

In it, Mr Elliott said Scarlett would give a commitment not to drive while disqualified again.

He had been caught driving while he was disqualified and without insurance. A suspended sentence is the usual penalty for such offences.

Mr Elliott argued that Scarlett had a number of issues in life as a result of his time in the services, but Judge Meehan said his letter went too far.

There is a clear indication here that a suspended sentence is unfair or disagreeable,” he said. “This testimonial should not be before me.

“Solicitors are officers of the court. I ask solicitors not to present such improper correspondence to the court“.

Addressing Scarlett he said: “It was foolhardy to drive. You knew you were disqualified in 2014. You are in defiance of a court order.

“Given the notorious dangers of a person who is unsuitable to be on the road, the public must be assured of a stern response. The court must also ensure its policy is not compromised.”