Crown Court News

Although not jump racing related, my attention was drawn to proceedings in the Gloucester Crown  Court where a defendant has pleaded not guilty to a charge of criminal damage. The allegation is that he caused £20,000 worth of damage to fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT), after having lost over £1,000 on a machine in 20 minutes.  His defence is automatism, which in simple terms is the lack of voluntary action, caused he would say by the trance  like state the machines are designed to induce. A second defendant who had previously pleaded not guilty, indicated he wished to change his plea.

His Honour Judge Tabour QC adjourned the case for a pre-trial review in December and made it clear the defence would get no where without an expert’s report. The case is even more newsworthy, because the defendants say they were invited into the shop in spite of having filled in self exclusion forms.

As someone who makes a living from representing those accused of criminal offences, in over 20 years as a solicitor I have never had a client seek to rely on automatism, although I have a vague memory of covering it in a lecture as an undergraduate. I don’t know enough about the case to comment and I am a believer in leaving justice to run its course. However, it does seem to me that whatever the outcome anything that publicises the issues regarding  FOBT’s has to be positive. As Judge Tabour QC also commented at the recent hearing: ‘I imagine Ladbrokes are extremely worried’.

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