Violence erupted inside a Leeds courtroom yesterday when a jury found a 25-year-old man guilty of sexually assaulting two women in the city.
People sitting in a public gallery at Leeds Crown Court began protesting as the foreman delivered the first guilty verdict against Jamie Sharlotte.
It’s an extremely unusual occurrence in these courts, no matter who is sitting in the dock and who has given evidence.Judge Guy Kearl QC
The second verdict was almost drowned out by their shouting, with threats being made against the life of a police officer sitting in the front row.
Both men and women hurled abuse and swore repeatedly at the officer, with one threatening to kill him and another shouting: “You’ll regret this.”
At least one of the group then launched a physical assault on the police officer, repeatedly punching him to the had and body.
Court staff ushered the jury to safety while the defendant was quickly taken back into the cells by dock officers.
The violence came to an end when security staff arrived at Court Seven to remove those involved after a few minutes. It left Judge Guy Kearl QC questioning the response time and ordering an inquiry into the ‘extremely unusual’ events. After the public gallery was clared, he told a security officer: “I’m concerned about the amount of time it’s taken for the security to arrive in this court.”
Leeds man found guilty of assaults on women in cityPolice investigate “unacceptable” assault on officer in Leeds courtroomReturning to the proceedings, he asked that the defendant be brought back into the dock.
Judge Kearl QC said he was adjourning the sentencing until May 23 so that a report could be prepared into the level of danger Sharlotte posed to others.
He then recalled the six men and six women sitting on the jury to apologise for what they had witnessed.
“What I can tell you is it’s an extremely unusual occurrence in these courts, no matter who is sitting in the dock and who has given evidence,” he said.
“That doesn’t make it any easier for anybody to witness.
“The security services in this court building did enter the court. There will now be an inquiry to see why they weren’t here earlier.”
Speaking about the role citizens play in the court system, he offered thanks to the 12 men and women for having done their duty as jurors.
He said: “As far as this case, you have done precisely what you were asked to do.
“For my part, from what I can see, the evidence was overwhelming, so I have no difficulty in accepting the verdicts.”
Telling them that the sentencing would take place at a later date, he added that he hoped the heat would be taken out of the situation by that time.
Meanwhile, police have begun a criminal investigation into the assault on the officer.
Detective Inspector Richard Holmes, of Leeds District CID, said: “An officer was attacked in the public gallery at Leeds Crown Court today after guilty verdicts were delivered in the case of Jamie Sharlotte. Fortunately, the officer was not seriously injured and did not require hospital treatment and is being given all necessary support.
“This incident will now be the subject of a comprehensive criminal investigation to identify those involved and take appropriate action against them.
“The use of violence against police officers carrying out their lawful duty is completely unacceptable and behaviour that causes disruption to the administration of criminal justice cannot and will not be tolerated.”