`Exceptional' judge goes to jail for drink-driving

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The Independent Online
Judge Angus Macarthur, who took early retirement three days ago, was last night starting a prison sentence after admitting his third drink- driving offence in 12 years.

The former county court judge was jailed for 28 days. He was described in Peterborough magistrates' court as a "broken man" upon whom the loneliness and stress of being a judge had taken its toll.

Mr John Henson, defending, said his client, who was regarded as a fair judge with an "exceptional" judicial mind, had suffered vilification in the press and was regarded with disdain by some members of the public as a result of his drink-driving offence.

Passing sentence, stipendiary magistrate Ronald Bartle said: "There is no more painful task than for one member of the judiciary to pass sentence on another. But I have to bear in mind that the law must be even-handed. Those of us who administer law to others have a special responsibility to obey the law ourselves."

Macarthur, 55, of Stamford, Lincolnshire, who sat mainly at Peterborough County Court, close to yesterday's hearing, was also fined pounds 2,000, ordered to pay pounds 100 costs and disqualified from driving for 10 years. He is believed to be only the second judge to be imprisoned in Britain.

The Lord Chancellor's department said Macarthur was suffering from alcohol dependence and depression and his medical condition was such that he was no longer able to discharge his judicial duties.

The court had been told that Macarthur, who was divorced and lived alone, had twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood when he was involved in a minor car accident in Peterborough a month ago. Macarthur's first drink-driving offence had been committed in 1985, and the second in 1993, when he was fined pounds 3,000 and disqualified from driving for two years.