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.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

On A Personal Note

I was quietly pleased to see the counter on the sidebar pass a quarter of a million hits today. I don'’t kid myself that it can be spot-on accurate, but it is a guide to the number of times that someone has clicked on to the blog. Even on the assumption that a good proportion of those visitors found us by cyber-accident and promptly shoved off, that still leaves quite a lot of people who found something to interest them. Better still, we have had thousands of comments, and on some topics there has been a serious and enlightening debate. I have moderated the comments with a light hand, excising only the very abusive and the hopelessly irrelevant. We have attracted a bit of press comment (some of which raised a few eyebrows in the system, but no matter) and I had to decline an interview with BBC radio because policy forbade them from preserving my anonymity, without which it could be hard to speak my mind.
Some of the things I have written about have forced me to examine what I am doing as a magistrate, and perhaps the greatest revelation is the gulf between public expectation and the reality of what we can do in the courts' system. At the top end, where wigs and robes symbolize the law'’s majesty, dangerous, and sometimes not so dangerous, criminals are locked away for a long time, and thus incapacitated from further crime. In some hundreds of cases it will not be safe to release the offenders until old age has reduced them to a condition in which they present no threat to the populace. But that'’s only a couple of percent of criminals at most. In every other case sentences are served and offenders get back to their lives.
As I have said elsewhere deterrence requires a degree of rationality from him who is to be deterred, and that is sadly absent in so many cases. For most of the predominantly young cohorts of offenders who troop through my court the dominating influences on them are peer pressure and the surrounding social milieu, coupled with what may well have been an unstable and unstructured childhood and adolescence. Half an hour a week with an overworked probation officer is a lot less of an influence than the pressure to conform with the lads, or the dubious moral framework of the telly and of pop culture.
For the middle class motorist deterrence usually works. The Mr. Toad who has nine points is likely to be less cavalier with his right foot than previously. The druggy who has to steal ten pounds'’ worth of stuff to have a pound to give to his dealer is immune to that kind of logic.
Anyway, thanks for clicking on, and special thanks for the comments and the emails. It really does encourage me as I slave over a lonely keyboard. Mind you, if there was ever anything good on telly, this blog probably wouldn'’t exist!