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, July 25, 2005

Yet More Bail

I dealt with nine overnight cases the other day, and in each one the only issue was whether or not they were to be granted bail or remanded in custody. The Bail Act provides for a presumption in favour of bail unless there are 'substantial' grounds to fear that the defendant will abscond, commit further offences, or interfere with witnesses. What is 'substantial' is up to the bench and that is why bail decisions are among the real red meat of the magistrate's job.

Some cases were simple. The man who had a huge amount of cocaine (street value north of a quarter-million) and who therefore faces something like ten years, didn't apply for bail as his counsel had presumably told him that he had no chance because of the clear incentive to do a runner. Remanded in custody for a week. At the other end of the scale was a woman of 35 who appeared to be on the edge of being mentally unstable and who had smashed some glasses in her boyfriend's house and then had an unavailing poke at the police when they turned up. She couldn't be sent back to the address, of course, but her worried-looking mum was in court and offered to take her in, so I told her that she would be bailed on condition that she lives and sleeps at mum's place. The 18 year old street robber who had failed to answer bail on two separate mobile phone muggings was refused bail because he is looking at a considerable stretch despite his youth.

The trickiest was another woman of about 40 whose heroin addiction has led her to have a 14 page criminal record, almost all of it for small scale theft and deception. She had been arrested while she was already on bail for two similar offences, and by the book she should have been remanded in custody, for the obvious fear of further offences. She has four children, and is five months pregnant, and that's what clinched it for me. I re-bailed her, avoiding the eye of our resident police officer who was bound to be thinking that I was a soft touch. Perhaps I am, but she is non-violent, does most harm to herself, and I just wasn't prepared to send a pregnant woman to Holloway with the weekend looming.

Her tattooed boyfriend did call out "thank you Sir" as he left, so it's nice to have one satisfied customer at least.

Final score: five bail, four custody.