Judge ensured justice was done over racist abuse

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's first black female judges was racially abused by a legal messenger who had been on an all-day drinking session, a court was told yesterday.

Lee Death, 27, from Sydenham, south London, who relays notes between barristers in court, was convicted of shouting racist abuse at Constance Briscoe.

Shortly before Christmas last year, he stepped in front of Mrs Briscoe's car and began racially abusing her. Mrs Briscoe, 49, called the police and followed Death as he and his friends tried to flag down a taxi.

She asked the driver not to accept the passengers before following Death to a nearby pub where he was arrested.

Death denied racially aggravated threatening behaviour but was convicted after a summary trial.

This year, Mrs Briscoe, who is married to the eminent QC Tony Arlidge and became a judge in 1996, wrote her best-selling autobiography, Ugly, which gave a harrowing account of her impoverished childhood in south London. The memoir reveals how she was brought up by an abusive mother, who is said to have called her daughter a "black bitch".

City of London magistrates' court heard how the judge was driving past the Coach and Horses pub in Whitefriars Street, central London, on 23 December last year, when Death stepped in front of her car.

Michael Otuyalo, for the prosecution, said Mrs Briscoe heard Death call out through her half-open window: "You black cunt."

When Mrs Briscoe asked him to clarify what he had said, he replied: "You fucking wog." Mr Otuyalo added: "She informed him she was going to call the police, and he replied, 'Well, you called me a white cunt' - which she had not."

Other members of Death's group, which included his wife and his brother Christopher Death, were heard to shout "piss off" and "what's your problem?" Undeterred, Mrs Briscoe followed the group, who were trying to board a London taxi, until she informed the driver that she had been racially abused, said Mr Otuyalo.

Death tried to make a getaway by running off when he was refused by the taxi driver, but Mrs Briscoe caught up with him in a pub called The Alibi, after which the police arrived.

The court was told that Mrs Briscoe, who was unable to attend yesterday's hearing, had given evidence and was "a credible and trustworthy witness".

Callum Haddow, Death's counsel, said his client had instructed his legal team to appeal against the conviction. He said the trial had been "a contributory factor" in Death's separation from his wife.

Richard Walduck, the chairman of the bench told Death as he sentenced him: "It was a very foolish thing to do.

"You don't need lectures on the dangers of alcohol. Be careful in the future."

He was sentenced to 100 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay Mrs Briscoe £100 compensation and costs of £200.

Mr Walduck said the compensation award "can no way reflect the damage done: it can only be regarded as a token".