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, August 05, 2005


I did a remand court the other day, and I had a thoroughly satisfying morning. The business flowed nicely, and by taking a robust approach to requests to adjourn we got several cases moving, rather than leaving them bogged down for another week or two. In the old days, when faced with a request for an adjournment we almost invariably agreed, but nowadays we are determined to reduce delay, and any advocate who wants an adjournment had better come up with a convincing reason for it. A little probing can often reveal that simply putting the case back for a couple of hours in the list will allow time to sort things out so that we can go on to the next stage.

Mid-morning was enlivened when three odoriferous men came into the gallery and plonked themselves down. A few minutes later I noticed that they were talking among themselves, and from their red faces and general demeanour I guessed that they had made an early start on the Tennents or the cider. I gave them a firm warning to be quiet, but they were at it again a few minutes later, so I took the bench out while security and a passing policeman removed them. The usher duly sprayed the gallery with the can of air freshener that is kept handy on the same shelf as the Kleenex.

We then had to sentence a case in which there were pre-sentence reports to read. We retired, and in view of the potential gravity of the matter we carried out a full structured sentencing exercise, considering seriousness, aggravation, and mitigation. We decided that the offence passed the custody threshhold, but then went on to consider whether to suspend it. We were all treading on new ground here, and we had to rely on the training that we received last February. Along with the power to suspend we now have the power to impose other requirements that can cover drug treatment, prohibitions on certain activities, and many other things including - aha! - unpaid work. So we decided to add a further 100 hours work on top of a YOI sentence, reduced to reflect the guilty plea, and suspended for twelve months. That way we felt that we had a suitable mixture of punishment and deterrence. We called the clerk out to run our decision past her and she confessed that she had never done one of these either, but she said that it all looked legal.

We agreed that I would lay it on very heavily that the young man was now only a hiccup away from going inside. Any failure to complete the work assignments properly or any further offence could only have one outcome.

All agreed, we trooped back in to tell him. I picked up my notes and was just into my preliminary remarks when I saw the defence solicitor getting to his feet. Damn! I hadn't asked him if he had any mitigation to add to the report, and the clerk and my colleagues had missed it too. The fact that he had already suggested a suspended sentence had ticked that box in our minds. I apologised, he mitigated, and we sentenced his man. His mother burst into tears when she heard that we had suspended the sentence.

No harm done by the slip-up of course, but I was cross with myself for spoiling what was otherwise a smoothly-conducted morning.

Later one of my colleagues noticed that there were seven unrelated defendants on our list with the name Mohammed. One of them pleaded guilty to drink driving, and we mused, as we fined and banned him, that his punishment would have been rather heavier before a court in Tehran or Jeddah.