A man who threatened to kill a witness at court has been jailed for three years and seven months.
Paul Michael Bishop slumped forward and put his head in his hands as Judge Christopher Prince told him his actions struck at the heart of the justice system and could not be tolerated.
Prosecutor David Crook told Durham Crown Court that Bishop was due to appear as a defendant in a case of assault at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court.
“The intimidation happened at the court building,” added Mr Crook. “The victim in the assault case was present at court with his partner.
“They were taken to a witness room on the ground floor of the building, which has a window overlooking the car park.
“Bishop went outside for a cigarette break, and he saw the witness through the glass.
“Bishop said to the witness: “You will not be laughing no more, I will kill you, you will be history,”
“The witness found the remarks distressing and frightening.”
Bishop, 31, of no fixed abode, admitted witness intimidation on December 7 last year.
The court heard he has ‘substantial’ previous convictions.
Stephen Constantine, defending, said in mitigation: “This was not a pre-meditated act, it happened in a chance meeting.
“Mr Bishop knows where the victim lives, so could have targeted him any time before or since the court hearing, but did not do so.
“Mr Bishop does have an appalling record, but there has been a downturn in his offending in recent years.
“He tells me he is getting too old for going to court all the time.”
Jailing Bishop, Judge Prince told him: “The courts will do whatever they can to protect victims and witnesses.
“You have a lengthy record of offending, and this latest offence strikes at the heart of the justice system.
“Anyone who seeks to interfere with a witness must expect a deterrent sentence.”
The judge made Bishop the subject of a restraining order banning him from contacting the victim or his partner.