Claustrophobic prisoner refused to get in court van

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A prisoner with a fear of confined spaces has had his sentence hearing adjourned after refusing to get in the van which was supposed to bring him to court.

Claustrophobic Robert Aitchison, 36, even frustrated efforts by court and prison staff to set up a video link to HMP Leeds by claiming the room he would have to sit in for the hearing was also too small.

But bizarrely Bradford Crown Court heard today (Thursday) that when Aitchison breached a restraining order not to go to his girlfriend’s home in Todmorden he was found at the premises hiding in what prosecutor Andrew Semple described as “a cupboard”.

It is understood G4S, which transports prisoners to court, does have a van which is more suitable for people who suffer from claustrophobia and Judge Colin Burn was told that it would be available to bring Aitchison to Bradford tomorrow (Friday).

Aitchison, of Dineley Avenue, Todmorden, should have been at Bradford Crown Court to stand trial over another alleged breach of the restraining order to stay away from Manuella Allison’s home in Harehill Street and a charge of common assault on her.

But Mr Semple told Judge Burn that the prosecution was offering no evidence on those two charges and formal not guilty verdicts were recorded.

Aitchison is understood to have been remanded in custody by Calderdale magistrates on April 24 after he admitted a separate breach of the restraining order and he will be brought to court on Friday to be dealt with for that offence.

After more than an hour trying to make progress with the case, Aitchison’s barrister Howard Shaw confirmed that his client was refusing to go into the video link room at the prison because it was “smaller than the room on the van”.