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, March 23, 2006

Sentencing Poll Part 2

Thanks very much to everyone who voted in the poll - at nearly 600 replies that's a decent sample, albeit a sample of blog readers. The percentages remained remarkably consistent from the start, with about two-thirds of people plumping for the sentence that we actually passed. About a quarter wanted supervision without the big stick of suspended prison, but the common theme was the need for treatment, coupled with a greater or lesser emphasis on punishment.

Points:- I was surprised at the lack of enthusiasm for unpaid work (although that may be my fault for the way I presented the original post) because benches often consider that to be the next step down the ladder of punishment from a prison sentence. The handful who went for a conditional discharge would very likely have been criticised for under-sentencing and the clerk would have had a duty to point out case law and sentencing practice when the bench checked its sentence for legality.

My main point is that I think this is one of the rare instances where the informed public pitches its sentence below that of some practising magistrates. I am working on pure hunch here, but I suspect that quite a few benches, possibly as many as a quarter, would, while appreciating the man's problems, feel obliged to sentence the offence and not the offender and send the man directly inside. There is a perfectly valid argument that the public expect to see anyone in this position imprisoned, and that it would be a proper deterrent. For myself, I fall on the rehabilitation side of the fence, but that doesn't mean that I am right, nor that my more punitive colleagues are wrong. Making a judgement is what we are there to do, after all.