A senior Carlisle Crown Court judge has expressed his concern over the practice of sentencing defendants convicted of serious crimes when they appear for hearings via a video link.

The comment was made by Judge Peter Hughes QC as he jailed a man for child abduction and assault.

Throughout the hearing, defendant Andrew Bell - stricken by remorse and anxious to have his say in court - repeatedly interrupted barristers and the judge as he appeared via a video link from prison.

The 34-year-old was being sentenced for a drug-fuelled attempt to abduct a five-year-old girl on a Workington street, when he also hit the child's mother.

At times, as the prosecuting barrister outlined Bell's offence, the defendant was seen on the video with his head in his hands.

He repeatedly interrupted, saying he had needed help and that he agreed what he had done was "disgusting" and that he was sorry and did not know how it had happened.

Responding to this, Judge Hughes said: "This case ought not to have been sentenced by video link. Given this experience, I would refuse to do this other than in very straight forward cases.

"This sort of thing should not be done by video link."

As the case ended, with Bell jailed for two years, the judge repeated his view that such serious cases should not be sentenced by video link, saying: "It encourages defendants to seek to interrupt over the link, breaking down the whole formality of the court proceedings."

Such a practice was highly undesirable, and represented a "cost cutting too far," added the judge.

In recent years, an increasing number of defendants have remained in their prisons, often being sentenced via video links following video consultations with lawyers.

Bell, of Fisher Street, Workington, told police he had taken what he thought was cannabis but was in fact a cocktail of drugs, which prompted his
Andrew Bell bizarre behaviour in trying to get into a stranger's car and then grabbing a five-year-old girl and dragging her along the street.

His barrister told the court that there had been nothing sinister about the offence.

The incident came to an end when a bystander wrestled Bell to the ground, and held him until police arrived.

As well as the two year jail term, Judge Hughes imposed a five year restraining order, banning Bell, who admitted a common assault of the girl's mother, from making any contact her or her parents.