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, October 27, 2005

Hello Again (updated)

The BBC reported over the weekend on yet another harebrained Government Laura Norder initiative, this time 'community courts'. What's wrong with calling them People's Tribunals? That worked all right for Stalin and Gadaffi.

I look forward to reading Hazel Blears' thoughts (thoughts?) on the subject, and I expect that I shall have to go and lie down in a darkened room until my rage subsides.

(later) Here is the excellent Marcel Berlins in The Guardian:-

Here we go again. The Home Office is about to announce yet another scheme to deal with criminals and antisocial behaviourists. Mind you, there hasn't been a new idea for some days, so we're in urgent need of one. There are, after all, departmental thought-targets to be met.

There are two types of governmental thinking on the subject. The first involves leaking an idea to the press, waiting a few days for it to be rubbished and then letting it be known they never had the idea in the first place. This is what happened to the scheme for extending Asbos to children under 10 and naming them Basbos.

The other type of government thinking is announced by a minister, sometimes even the man himself (remember the great Blair brainwave for dragging paralytic pukers to holes in the wall, expecting them to remember their pin numbers). Several ideas ago (four weeks) emerged the scheme for increasing police powers to enable them to scatter Asbos to all and sundry without any need to disturb a magistrate.

This week's big idea, lifted by the government from a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), is to create a network of "street courts" (real title - community offender panels, COPS, ho ho) with the power to sentence petty offenders and antisocials. The panels would consist of volunteers, no qualifications necessary, who would be given just 20 hours' training. I haven't seen the final plans, but a couple of leaks suggest that these street judges would have the power to make drug-treatment orders and impose community sentences. If that's true, street courts would rank among the worst of many bad big ideas. Those are sensitive issues, not to be dealt with by amateurs.

But my main plea is for the government to stop this avalanche of tinkering. The criminal justice system, incorporating antisocial behaviour, needs reform. It should be done as a considered, structured whole, not as a series of instant, often zany, brainwaves.

Me too, Marcel!