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.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Pistol Packing Schoolmarm

There has been a lot of comment in the press about the recent jailing of a teacher who rounded on the young hooligans who had been tormenting her family and fired an airgun near, but not at them. I did not hear all of the evidence but this kind of behaviour certainly crosses the custody threshold, and I think that most magistrates would have sent the case to the Crown Court, although in the event the sentence was within magistrates' powers.

(Later) The Court of Appeal released the lady by substituting a Conditional Discharge, while reaffirmiing the principle that such offences are well within the custodial bracket. She served the equivalent of about a three month sentence.

As it happens, one of the sentencing reforms that has just been introduced is to bring back our power to impose a suspended sentence. These went out of use some years ago, as they were being used sometimes as a 'lazy' sentencer's alternative to a community penalty. Now we may use them again, but the offence must pass the custody threshold, may be suspended for 6 months to 2 years, and requirements may be attached, such as drug or alcohol treatment. The presumption will be that if the offender fails to comply with any of the requirements or commits any further offences then the prison sentence will be activated.

I can think of plenty of cases where this might be useful - perhaps this lady's might even have been one of them. We have to take a very firm line with any misuse of dangerous weapons, but this particular lady's incarceration is otherwise quite pointless.