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.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Private Prosecutions

On one day a week we allocate a courtroom to deal with private prosecutions. Mostly these are from transport companies for fare evasion, RSPCA, Health and Safety, noise complaints and so on. A few are true private prosecutions where an individual makes a criminal allegation against another.

We heard an allegation of assault against relatives, that was a classic of its kind. After we had a preliminary chat with the clerk we flagged up, using code of course, that we could well consider binding over both parties - in those days consent was required. The defence had a barrister, the prosecutors were doing it on their own. We went and had a cup of coffee to allow time for a deal, but no, the prosecutor wanted to go ahead.

In essence it was a dispute about some property. Family A had some property belonging to Family B. Two burly chaps from Family B went round to ask for the goods back. "It's not convenient, come back next week" replied Father A, his equally-burly son beside him. Family B then charged through the door into the house, where they were met by father and two sons who ejected them after a scuffle in which blows were exchanged. So B claimed that they had been assaulted by A. The first part of the trial took all morning because B kept trying to get onto the rights and wrongs of the property, and we kept reminding them that this was assault, pure and simple that we were considering. Of course the prosecution didn't have a hope, because B were in the wrong in entering without permission and A were entitled to use reasonable force to eject them. We rapidly decided on acquittal, and the barrister for A shimmered to his well-shod feet to ask for costs. "I have a detailed schedule of my clients' costs here, Sir. You will be aware that in cases such as this the costs go with the cause".

Just under two thousand pounds it came to , and that's what we ordered the unsuccessful prosecutor to pay. Ironically, if the prosecutors had accepted a bindover, that would not count as a conviction, and the question of costs would not arise. So the decision to refuse a bindover was an expensive one.