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.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Bail Again

I had to decide whether to grant bail the other week. The person concerned has a history of petty offences including a few of failing to answer bail. His record runs to about ten sheets of A4. The offences before the court are medium-serious, likely to attract a few months inside at the worst. He is a chronic alcoholic so a treatment focused community penalty is also a distinct possibility. Due to attend at 10 am, the person arrived during the afternoon, and was arrested on the warrant that my colleagues had issued on his earlier non-appearance.

On his record, he could expect a remand in custody, and that's what the prosecutor asked for. My first reaction was to think that he had had his chance, and to remand him to prison, but I then assembled all of the facts in my mind:

* His trial will not take place for a good few weeks, so he is unconvicted at the moment.
* If he is convicted he may well have served his eventual sentence on remand.
* His offending, including his bail failures, is largely driven by his alcoholism.
* His most recent bail offence was mitigated by the fact that he did at least turn up to court, albeit hours late.
* I had read in the press that the prisons are at a near record level of inmates.
* Is this really a good use of such an expensive resource as prison?

So I bailed him on conditions, much (as I heard unofficially) to the disgust of our resident jailer.

Had I locked him up, I could have been properly criticised for cluttering up an expensive prison with a pathetic alcoholic who at least has a home and partner to go to. Since I did not, I might equally be criticised for putting a man with a history of breaking his bail back on the street.

There's no right answer at this stage. If he duly turns up for his trial then I was right and I have saved the taxpayers thousands of pounds and complied with the spirit of the Bail Act. If he absconds or reoffends then a silly magistrate has got it wrong again.

Fingers crossed.