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.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Oh Goody, Some More Changes!

The latest issue of '‘The Magistrate'’ trails some of the legal changes that are expected in 2006. As usual, the list is a long one, and includes implementation of Acts that are already on the statute book as well as new legislation.

The remaining sentencing provisions of the 2003 Criminal Justice Act will be implemented. Magistrates'’ sentencing powers for an either-way offence will increase to 12 months from the present 6. Where there are two or more such offences the aggregate maximum goes up to 15 months. All prison sentences of less than 12 months will be replaced with Custody Plus, for a minimum of 28 weeks and a maximum of 51. The court will take a pick-and-mix approach, and part of the term will be served in custody with the balance in the community, subject to whatever requirements the court thinks appropriate, in the same way as we now impose suspended sentences with conditions. We will be given new guidelines from the Sentencing Guidelines Council on the type of case that should be committed to the Crown Court for trial, but defendants retain their right to elect jury trial in either-way cases. Magistrates will no longer have the right to commit to the Crown Court for sentence, except where the offender comes within the '‘dangerousness'’ provisions. This is completely new ground and we will need to rely on our clerks'’ advice for the first few cases until we get a feel for it.

The Road Safety Bill is likely to pass Parliament, and we are expecting to see:-
Mandatory re-tests for repeat drink-drivers
Speeding to carry 2-6 points in a sop to the Mr. Toad lobby
Camera detectors will become illegal
Using a hand-held phone while driving will become endorsable
A second conviction for using a dangerous vehicle will carry a six-month ban (I haven'’t seen one of those for at least five years)
Failing to provide drivers'’ details and careless driving will have increased penalties.

The granting of Legal Aid will be taken away from the courts and given to the Legal Services Commission, although for the time being they are likely to delegate the powers right back to us. The means test that was abolished some years ago because it cost more to administer than it collected, is being reintroduced. This is known as the Grand Old Duke of York syndrome.

The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 may or may not be brought into force, but the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, with its nasty add-ons including the ones about the power of arrest almost certainly will.

As you would expect there are considerable reservations about Custody Plus, not so much with the principle but with the question of resources. The new setup will be complex and expensive, and will be dropped into the lap of a Probation Service (now merged with the Prison Service in an unlikely blending of cultures) that has been under pressure for some years. If it isn'’t properly funded, it isn'’t going to work.