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.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

What would you do?

The Crime:
Two neighbours had a long-running dispute that had started over parking. Mr. A made a habit of parking his car near Mr. B's house. Matters festered until one day Mr. A was getting into his car ready to go out and Mr. B. appeared, in an angry mood. Words were exchanged and A was punched in the face several times resulting in a broken nose, and a lot of blood. He required visits to hospital and he had to take time off work. B pleaded not guilty to ABH, but after a trial we found him guilty. We put the matter off for three weeks, ordered pre-sentence reports, and we said that all options would be open including custody or committal to the crown court for sentence.
The Guidelines:
The Magistrates Court Guidelines suggest custody for a first time offender pleading not guilty. There was no significant aggravation or mitigation, in that no weapon was used, but there was no provocation either. Other factors were absent so the case was straightforward.
The Pre-Sentence Report:
The report said that he was a family man with no previous convictions who worked for a small business with several staff. He had been angry at people parking near his house - he had bought it last year on a mortgage and was proud of his home. He had lost his temper and he was sorry. His solicitor had told him that prison was very much on the cards and he was very frightened. The probation officer writing the report recommended a community penalty while recognising that the court might feel that custody was inevitable. B was suitable for any of the range of sentences available.
The Sentencing Process:
We decided that the offence was serious enough for a community penalty and might be so serious that only custody was suitable. The Clerk reminded us that there is higher court guidance on road-rage type incidents that says that custody should be the norm, to deter motorists from attacking each other. This case wasn't exactly the same but was close. We dismissed the idea of a discharge or a fine, so we had the options of a Community Punishment Order up to a maximum of 240 hours, or prison up to six months. We decided that there was not enough aggravation to send the case to a judge who has greater powers. We reminded ourselves that we were obliged to consider compensation to the victim, but that if we imprisoned the defendant he would have no money to pay. We considered the impact on the victim, and the need to deter others.
The Questions:
Would you have opted for prison, or for community punishment. Why? Would you have awarded compensation? How much?

If you were the victim, what would you rather see; the satisfaction of seeing your assailant go to prison, or a community penalty plus compensation for yourself?
NB Community Punishment is served in seven-hour periods usually on a Saturday. Half of any prison sentence would be remitted for good behaviour.

I will tell you what we did after a few people have given their views.

Added 9/2
I am busy today, so I shall post what happened this evening. I would appreciate views from the victim's perspective, because that was one of the main drivers of the eventual sentence.