The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Last Word (Pro.Tem. At Least)

I have been paying too much attention recently to the Press and its influence on and reporting of the Government's 'policies' on Law'n'Order, and I shall try to give both a rest, at least until the next time that I become exasperated beyond endurance.

Just a few thoughts before I leave off the subject:-
Today's 'Sunday Times' has a report on sentencing by magistrates. It claims that the judicial softies in the North-East are the easiest on defendants, and that the spirit of Judge Jeffries lives on in Uxbridge, where the bench has a high rate of imprisonment (the report says 32% are jailed immediately - I very much doubt that figure which must apply to either-way offences only). The Chairman of the Uxbridge bench explains that his court deals with work from Heathrow, which suggests that a higher than average proportion of serious offences are dealt with by him and his colleagues, and that seems fair enough.

Something else that caught my eye was this:-
Children’s charities criticised the “lenient” treatment of a drunk woman who took her premature baby, still connected to an oxygen bottle, into a pub. She was given a one-year conditional discharge by North Tyneside magistrates
Are we being urged to imprison this woman, for what is certainly outrageous conduct? Or is this really a Social Services problem, which the bench realised, leading them to impose a discharge to allow the professionals to try to sort out this sad situation?

This too:-
Newcastle magistrates were also criticised for freeing a thief with 51 previous convictions. William Armstrong, 31, was given a conditional discharge in 2004 for a burglary committed just a day after being sentenced for theft.
looks daft on the face of it, but I have imposed similar penalties in particular circumstances. I know nothing whatever about the case concerned, so let me speculate:- Multiple theft convictions usually follow from a drug addiction. A court has imposed a long and complex community order involving supervision and drug treatment together with other requirements. A day later he steals again (because he is still a junkie) because the treatment hasn't started - in fact the file has only just been opened. Common sense says that you discharge the latest offence to allow the order a chance to work - to do otherwise would simply negate all the work that has been done to get him to this stage. If he then goes on to breach the order, then fair enough, you put him inside. That's a bit too complicated to get into a newspaper headline though isn't it?

Anyway, I'm going to lay off the Government and the journos for a while. Let's see what the Home Secretary comes up with in July. He must know how King Lear felt when he cried:-
"I shall do such things, I know not what they are, but they shall be the terror of the Earth"

Now where did I leave my blood pressure tablets?