As a journalist I have covered numerous court cases, listening to hearings from an outside perspective, writes Gazette reporter Emily Roberts
But I recently experienced what it is like to be a witness after reporting someone for using their mobile phone on the motorway. 
It gave me a very different perspective of the criminal justice system, and one which unfortunately left me frustrated and disappointed. 
In January I saw a man who I now know to be Joe Christopher Bray, from Eastleigh, driving in the fast lane on the M3 chatting away happily and at ease on his mobile phone. I was in my dad’s car, with my two-year-old son next to me. 
Hoping to shock him into ending his call, I filmed him from the back window using my mobile phone. 
However, he was so distracted, he failed to notice, and at one point I saw him with no hands on the steering wheel. 
The casualness with which he was using his phone, and his apparent relaxed conversation, suggested he wasn’t deterred by the law, or the danger he presented to himself and other road users. 

Basingstoke Gazette: Dangerous: Motorist driving on the M3 while speaking on the phoneDangerous: Motorist driving on the M3 while speaking on the phone
I felt a sense of responsibility to stop him doing this again, and so immediately contacted the police informing them I had video footage. 
Naively, I assumed the matter would be dealt with easily and promptly, given my evidence was irrefutable. 
However, attempts to send my video to the police failed, with them unable to receive it via Facebook messenger and it being too large to email. We compromised with a screen shot, which led to Bray fined £200 and given six points on his licence. 
However, in June I was informed he contested the fine and requested for the case to be heard in court. I was asked to give a statement.  
Recalling details such as what someone was wearing five months later was an impossibility. It was only because I had the video as a reminder that I was able to answer the questions, with this evidence finally sent to police via the officer’s private WhatsApp account. 
I was warned that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) might reduce the fine to save the costs of taking it to court. 
I was appalled. What message does this give? That despite clear evidence showing this man breaking the law, by appealing he could end up better off. 
It was taken to Southampton Magistrates’ in July.  Arranging childcare for my son, I set off at 8am to ensure I was there for 9.30am, only to sit around until lunchtime because of problems getting my video to play. 
The first prosecutor didn’t introduce herself, and hadn’t even watched the video. She was then replaced by someone else half-way through the morning, with no explanation why. Where was the preparation, I wondered? 
At 12.45pm I was informed that Bray had seen the video and, sensibly, pleaded guilty.
Why wasn’t he shown the video evidence from the outset, I wondered, which could have saved time and costs. 
I assumed his fine would increase as a result of his late guilty plea. Instead, having wasted mine and the court’s time, his fine was reduced to £100. The six points remained, and he was ordered to pay £85 costs and £30 court costs, but the actual fine was cut by 50 per cent. 
I can’t blame him for this. Had Bray been presented with all the evidence from the outset, he almost certainly would have realised he had no grounds for a not-guilty plea. 
The most frustrating part is that the police made it clear that costs often dictate decision making. The CPS might have considered reducing the fine to save money. Yet they could have saved these costs, and my time, simply by presenting Bray with the video evidence beforehand. 
This is a case whereby I’m not really a victim. I didn’t suffer as a result of Bray’s actions. 
That’s not to say my own actions didn’t weigh heavily on my mind, questioning whether I was about to ruin Bray’s life if the points on his licence meant he would lose it, or employment. However, his brazenness to fight it, reassured me that this was a man who didn’t care, so neither should I. 
It was a frustrating and disappointing experience, and one which might put me off reporting a crime again. 
I have a new empathy for victims of serious crime who must feel this to a far greater degree, particularly if justice is not served at the end of the ordeal, or if late guilty pleas are rewarded with a reduced punishment. 
I can’t help but wonder if this was a result of the police and CPS failing to present Bray with all the evidence.