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.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Serious Business

Occasionally a case jumps off the page at you as you look down the list. In among the common assaults, drug cases, and shoplifters there is occasionally a real heavyweight bit of business - as there was a few weeks ago.

Making (or possessing) indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of a child under sixteen.

That's the sort of case that comes with a lot of emotional baggage, so we settled down to look calmly at the facts. Clive is an ordinary-looking 40 year-old man who kept his head bowed below the dock rail once he had given his name and date of birth. Pure chance led a third party to discover that Clive had used their computer to access internet child porn, and a dozen photos of naked young boys were left on the computer's disk. A warrant was obtained and Clive's house was raided one cold dawn. He knew, once the sleepy daze wore off, what the police were after and he cooperated with the officers. He was arrested and his PC seized, and after interview he was bailed for some weeks while the overworked computer forensic people checked out his machine. He was bailed to his mother's address because his wife had thrown him out after his arrest, and his voluntary work at the local school was summarily cancelled.

The Court of Appeal has laid down a scale of seriousness for child pornography, running from one, the relatively innocuous, up to five, that requires a very strong stomach to contemplate. Clive was charged with possession of four scale one photos and two scale twos, all of boys aged between eight and thirteen. At level one we are talking about children who may be naked but who are not in any erotic pose, but level two might involve some visible sexual arousal.

We put the case off for a week for legal reasons, and a week later my colleagues had to decide whether magistrates' powers were adequate or whether to send Clive to the Crown Court. They will have been thoroughly advised as to the law by prosecution and defence lawyers and by their legal adviser. This particular case was on the borderline, so I shall be interested to find out which way they went.