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Judge takes 'unusual step' of 'clearing court' to sentence woman who 'stabbed he

'UNUSUAL': Judge Peter Clarke said it was in the interests of the defendant's safety

A JUDGE took the "unusual step" of clearing "much of the courtroom" as he sentenced a woman with mental health problems amid fears she may harm herself due to the attention.

Members of the press and public were prevented from going into the courtroom at Blackfriars Crown Court, yesterday, as Judge Peter Clarke QC sentenced Marcela Goncalves, 37, for assaulting a police officer.

Criminal courts in the UK are open to the public to view, unless the judge takes the case into "chambers" when a no entry sign is placed on the door.

This did not happen in this case, but an usher prevented anyone from entering as the sentence was delivered.

Following a complaint from the media, the court initially claimed the case had gone into chambers.

However, today, Judge Clarke explained in open court that this was not the case.

He said: "I was told by social workers that this defendant had harmed herself in the past by stabbing herself in the eye with a pen and that if there was too much attention on her she may be at risk of harming herself again.

SENTENCE: Goncalves appeared at Blackfriars Crown Court (pictured)

"So, I took the unusual step of having as few people in the court as possible to prevent that, so the usher was only carrying out my orders.

"That is not an apology, but an explanation."

Goncalves, also known as Oliveira, from Mornington Place, Mornington Crescent, north London, was earlier convicted of one count of assault by battery and a second count of assaulting a police constable.

Judge Clarke gave her a 12-month community service order with a requirement to undertake 20 days of mental health rehabilitation treatment.

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