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, September 01, 2005

Emotional Claptrap

Harriet Harman, the Department forConstitutional Affairs minister, is launching a consultation paper today on plans to allow relatives of homicide victims to address the court, either in person or through a representative, post-conviction but before sentence.

Well, if she cares to consult me, I shall tell her that this is nauseating tabloid-driven claptrap. What a field day the Sun will have as tear-stained relatives (especially if they are from Liverpool) sob out their grief, and call for the heaviest punishment for the defendant. The interviews on the court steps are bad enough as it is - "How do you feel about the sentence?" "Oh great, it was about spot on and the judge took account of the Sentencing Guidelines Council's latest circular". Why does no one ever answer "What a stupid question?"

What is the judge supposed to do, faced with this appalling freakshow? Is he meant to ratchet up the sentence in response to emotional pressure? Do we want a legal system where the killer of a wide-eyed moppet goes down for longer than if he had offed Billy No-Mates? Perhaps after the relatives' contribution the trial could adjourn for a few days while a TV phone-in poll decides the sentence - at premium rates of course.

Harriet Harman is a lawyer and she used to be a liberal (NCCL and all that). Surely she knows in her heart of hearts that this proposal is wrong, disgusting, and counter to all of the principles of impartial justice.

And next time I hear someone say:- "He'll come out of prison one day - it's us that are serving a life sentence", I shall throw up.
Later: I found this from the editorial on the Sun's website:-

A New law will be unveiled today that could result in killers getting the sentences they deserve.
Relatives of victims are to be allowed to address courts once a guilty verdict is returned.
For the first time the full emotional damage of the crime of murder will be laid bare.
Too often in the past, courts have heard only a sob-story cooked up on behalf of the defendant.
Justice will be better for this law.


I rest my case.