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.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pro-Police? Anti-Police?

I have trodden on a few corns recently with some of the things that I have written about Penalty Notices, ASBOs and such. I have been taken to task for being out of touch with the reality on the street and described as a typical middle-class liberal, or words to that effect.

First and foremost, I am not a typical anything. I am one of almost 30,000 JPs and I set out my stall at the top of the blog - my opinions are mine and mine alone. The other 29,999 all have their own take on things. Because the blog is anonymous I don't have to parrot the official line. If I did, it would be a boring read and we would not have had over 200,000 visitors, I suspect.

I respect and support police in what they are asked to do, particularly on the front line. I couldn't do their job, and to be frank I am glad that my kids aren't doing it either. I am critical of what politicians ask police to do - so many social problems are not, at bottom, solveable by police action. Street-level officers have always had a healthy suspicion of deskbound senior officers, magistrates, lawyers, and officials in general, with some justification. But we won't solve the problem by throwing more law at it. We have tens of thousands of pages of law, but none of them is any use to a frightened sixth-month probationer facing half a dozen drunken yobs with no more than an Asp baton and a radio that doesn't want to work.

ASBOs and PNDs have their place, but they are not cure-all solutions. Days of preparation and hundreds if not thousands of pounds go into an ASBO application, but if (as on my patch) about half are swiftly breached, where is the public interest in that? Unpaid PNDs are likewise bringing the law into disrespect.

The point of a court is that the bench were not there at the scene of the crime, so we need prosecutors to show us what happened, beyond reasonable doubt. We have the luxury of time to consider and examine the evidence, and we can do so without immediate fear of assault. That is why our job is easier than a PC's and it is why a copper under pressure on the street is not the best person to take a quasi-judicial decision.