'Name the sentence' judge is criticised

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THE VICTIM of a shop robbery who was brought to court to suggest a jail term for the offender yesterday attacked the judge for making him 'feel like a fool'.

Jason Pollard, 20, made legal history when, at the invitation of Judge Roger Scott, he gave his view on the fate of Alan Cooper, 42, of Darlington, at Teesside Crown Court.

The judge ordered Mr Pollard to be brought to the court to be asked his opinion. Mr Pollard was shown confidential medical reports on the former soldier's shattered nerves and heavy drinking. He also heard the defendant's wife speak of their hopes for the future to wipe out memories of his six tours of duty in Northern Ireland.

When Mr Pollard suggested six months, the judge met him halfway and passed a one-year term on Cooper, who admitted a raid on the Radio Rentals shop in Darlington, during which he pretended he had a gun before fleeing with pounds 54.

Yesterday, Mr Pollard said: 'I thought he deserved four years, but I was scared to say that in front of all those people. I felt a fool being asked what I thought. I'm not against the idea of asking victims for their opinions, in principle. But it should have been done discreetly. If the justice really took into account what I said in court then justice has not been done. Because I thought he should have got longer.

'The man was a couple of yards away and his family were all in court. What was I supposed to tell the judge - 'lock him up and throw away the key'? I felt too intimidated to give my real opinions.'

Cooper's lawyers said he had wept with gratitude after being sentenced, and had said: 'I was expecting to get two years until the lad gave his idea of what my sentence should be. I am very grateful to him and to Judge Scott, and I won't let them down when I get out.'