A Kingston Crown Court judge known for his “no-nonsense” attitude towards barristers and defendants is to retire after 18 years on the circuit bench, writes Jon Sharman.
Judge Fergus Mitchell, 67, was appointed a circuit judge in the south-east in 1996, having been called to the Bar in 1971.
The scourge of impudent defendants, lawyers late for court and Crown Prosecution Service solicitors who have not prepared their evidence, Judge Mitchell was popular with Kingston’s back office staff.
He recently told a drunk defendant who berated him from the dock and boasted about being on benefits: “We’re giving you another benefit now. Free accommodation, courtesy of Her Majesty.”
The defendant, who had been on bail, was led to the cells by six dock officers after sarcastically applauding the decision.
In another case, Judge Mitchell sent to the cells a group of teenagers accused of smashing up cars in Chessington, before bringing them back up after lunch to sentence them.
But he was rebuked by a High Court judge in 2011 after a man found guilty of driving around London carrying knives had his conviction quashed, on the basis that Judge Mitchell was “rude, harsh and sarcastic” while he was giving evidence.
The defendant had threatened a boy on work experience at the court and received a stern telling-off from Judge Mitchell.
Solicitor-advocate Ovais Kadri, who presented cases before Judge Mitchell many times, said: “He had a no-nonsense approach to running his court.
“If you had 10 cases you knew that by one o’clock it would be done.
“That was applicable to his sentencing as well. He would frown upon any nonsense that was spoken [but] if you gave him a good argument he would go along with it.”
Educated at Tiffin Boys’ School, Judge Mitchell was appointed an assistant Recorder in 1989 and a Recorder in 1993. He sat on several legal committees including Bar Race Relations Committee and the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
Society encyclopedia Debrett’s lists his interests as including opera and military history.