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.

My Photo
Location: Near London, United Kingdom

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Point Missed

A number of papers have now had a go at Bean J over the Section 5 issue, and Robert Crampton joins in in Times 2 today.

Now this wasn't a judgment about swearing at a policeman - it was a decision on what the law says; that's what Appeal judges are for.

The law says:-

Harassment, alarm or distress.
(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

I have emphasised the key bit. In deciding whether the offence is made out the court has to decide whether a person is likely to be caused harassment and the rest. Effing and blinding in front of a party of toddlers is likely to do so. The same language in front of experienced police officers is not.

Nobody is trying to make the job of the police any harder, but the only law that matters is the law as it stands. There are plenty of potential offences involved in behaving badly to police, but S5 POA isn't one of them. The Judge's job isn't to be popular, but to clarify the law. If legislators want to come up with something to deal with the foul-mouthed yob tendency, then I imagine they will do so.