Key Points:

A woman who attacked a defendant in Christchurch District Court has been sent to jail for three weeks after remonstrating with a judge.

Jennifer Bell, 51, a Christchurch beneficiary, was seen by Judge Michael Crosbie to attack a defendant who was appearing in his court this morning for a pre-trial conference to confirm a trial date.

Bell hit the man as he was leaving the dock and the pair began arguing.

Judge Crosbie sent the defendant to the cells briefly for his own protection and Bell left the court hurriedly.

Judge Crosbie then asked police to find Bell and bring her before the court.

She was remanded in custody for the afternoon when the judge said he would deal with the matter after he completed a trial.

She was advised to see a duty solicitor.

When Bell was brought into court this afternoon she launched a tirade, telling Judge Crosbie she was deaf, couldn't hear what he was saying, and didn't understand what was happening.

"In full view of the court you stood, confronted (the defendant) and struck him," the judge said.

"There was just no need for it to happen in a courtroom let alone during a pre-trial conference."

It was clear Bell had hit the defendant and Judge Crosbie wanted to know the background to any relationship between the pair so he ordered her back to the cells for an hour to consult duty solicitor Richard Peters.

When Bell returned to court she yelled out that she was sorry and said she was guilty and expected to go to jail.

She alleged the defendant and an associate had assaulted her, leaving her deaf.

"They both hit me," Bell told the court. "They're out on bail. I'm deaf. I'm sorry."

Mr Peters urged the judge to accept the apology "of sorts".

Judge Crosbie said he suspected there was "history" between the pair and Bell had come to court to try to get the defendant.

Bell said she was due to appear in the No.1 courtroom and had gone upstairs to look for a lawyer she knew when she saw the defendant.

She claimed he called her a "piece of shit" and tried to hit her.

"He assaulted me," she said.

Judge Crosbie said he'd watched as Bell "slugged him one".

He said the incident was the "last thing I expected in my court on a Tuesday morning".

"I saw you take to him. If I'd seen him hit you I would have remanded him in custody for that," he said.

"As far as behaviour in a courtroom goes, this is about as bad as it gets.

"It was unnecessary. It was forceful and in my view it was contempt in the face of the court," Judge Crosbie said.

He said the court must be seen as an institution that must be respected.

"Nothing justifies your conduct."

He found Bell in contempt and jailed her for 21 days.

- NZPA