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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 team, who may or may not be JPs, but all of whom are interested in the Magistrates' Courts.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Guidelines

The latest Magistrates' Court Sentencing Guidelines (available here) came into force yesterday and later this week I shall use them in court for the first time. Nearly every magistrate has had a day's training and we all have our own copies, in a rather clumsy binder.
The basic principle is the same as before; it is right that courts across the country should take the same approach to sentencing, although courts have wide discretion to fit the circumstances of each case. One major difference is that we have to give reasons if we depart from the guideline range. The ranges can be pretty wide; from a medium community sentence to 26 weeks' custody in ABH cases, for example. There are some new ideas in the calculation of fines, and I suspect that fine levels will on the whole increase. It has always been a problem to assess the income of someone on benefit, who may for example be on £47 JSA per week (and nevertheless able to buy drink and or drugs!) so the new system presumes an income of £100 per week, to allow for the likely help he will have with rent, council tax and whatever. It's rough-and-ready, but may be a bit fairer than the old by-guess-and-by-god method. If we don't know the income we assume £350 per week. It's a pity the SGC didn't settle on £360, since that divides neatly by three, to give the plea discount.
The Sentencing Form that we prepare to give Probation our view when writing a report has been changed, and I foresee considerable scope for confusion over section 7, the assessment of seriousness.
Let's see how we get on.

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