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.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Sad, the Mad, and Occasionally the Bad

It was a bitty day last Friday. We spent a couple of hours dealing with fine enforcement, and we were grateful for the fact that it is a lot easier these days to have fines deducted from the person's benefit at source. At between £5 and £8 per week it can take a while to collect,especially when compensation is involved, but at least it trickles in eventually. One young lad tossed a concrete bin through a supermarket window to get his hands on two bottles of cider valued at £3. The bill for the window was £1500, which made for an expensive drink.

Then we did a few TV licences. The inspectors had turned over one of our local college residences and we saw about twenty cases involving students. Those who turned up and pleaded guilty were fined an average of about £40 and £20 costs, but those who just ignored the summons were convicted in their absence and fined an average of £120 plus £45 costs - it pays to turn up and to explain just how skint you are.

We then sentenced a young woman with learning difficulties who was involved in a minor theft. She lives in a special hostel, and in all the circumstances a Conditional Discharge was the obvious way to go (guilty plea, low value, no previous convictions, unsophisticated) so that's what we did. A significant number of our customers either have a learning difficulty or have a diagnosed mental illness and I find them very hard to deal with. There was a man who had breached a nuisance order by continuing to make his neighbour's lives hell with constant shouting and screaming. He caused a scene in the foyer and when we got him in we heard that he has been in and out of hospital having been sectioned several times. He was so agitated that it was hopeless trying to make progress, so we put it off to another day when things may be calmer. We finished the day by issuing a Mental Health Warrant allowing medical staff and social workers to go and pick up a potentially dangerous patient who had escaped from what was supposed to be a secure unit.

With one exception every single person that we saw during the day was either a student or on benefit. As I walked into the pub later and looked at the well-fed and well-clothed people around me I was reminded of the diversity of our society.

I am sitting again tomorrow, so we shall see what the morning list brings. I fancy a nice all-day trial, with verdict at about a quarter past four. I should be so lucky. Perhaps I'll see a bit of Happy Slapping instead.