An expectant father, who missed a court appearance to attend the birth of his first child, was ordered by a magistrate to be arrested without bail, writes Elaine Fogg.

Malcolm Rattray, 21, unemployed of Farnborough Way, North Peckham Estate, Peckham, was due to appear in court yesterday, charged with the theft of four Apple computers following a burglary in Wilton Road, Victoria, on 14 June.

The magistrate, Terence Maher, said: 'It's ridiculous. He was bailed to appear here, not to attend the birth of his child.

He had heard that Mr Rattray had telephoned the court to say he had rushed to hospital because his girlfriend had gone into labour.

Kishoree Pau, for Mr Rattray, asked the magistrate at least to back the arrest warrant with bail in view of the 'exceptional circumstances.

However, Mr Maher said women had been giving birth for millennia without men there. 'If people are bailed, they should turn up at court. It's ridiculous. If he has got any sense, he will surrender himself and then there's no harm done.

Miss Pau said after the hearing: 'It seems a bit harsh that a warrant was issued in these circumstances.

Mr Maher is well-known for his hard-hitting one-liners from the Bench. He recently presided over a case in which a policewoman had arrested a man who shouted abuse and said: 'I answer to no woman]

'That's quite understandable, quipped the magistrate.