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, June 22, 2006

Vicious Circle

I had one of the old regulars in a few months ago. He must have been coming in to my court for well over a dozen years, invariably for low-level public order offences. The staff know him as 'Smelly Daniel' because he exudes a powerful whiff wherever he goes. Our ushers keep a can of air freshener handy with the Kleenex, and it is well-used when Daniel is in. On this occasion matters were not helped by the fact that he had fouled himself in the cells, and was still wearing most of the same clothes. The escort staff were keeping a wary distance.

He is a wreck of a man, an alcoholic of course, and has lived in and out of hostels and on friends' sofas for years, with time spent sleeping rough. He would hang around the bus station or the precinct, until the police became fed up enough to arrest him. He would routinely turn up in custody, and we would usually fine him but then write the fine off against time he had spent in custody. This is a rough-and-ready way of dealing with the type of person from whom you will never extract a fine.

He was given one of the early ASBOs. It forbade him from being drunk in public and from going to the station for an indefinite period. Inevitably he has breached the order several times, and he has progressed from being fined to being imprisoned, and he has previously received two six-month sentences. Following standard procedure, we committed him to the Crown Court for sentence, since all else has failed to deter him.

The Resident Judge at our local Crown Court doesn't like us sending up ASBO breaches but in this case we had no choice, and I expect that this time Daniel will have got something like nine months. I leave it to you to decide whether this is the right use of a desperately overcrowded prison, and whether such a sentence is a proportionate response to a drunken nuisance with a fondness for the bus station.

There is nothing that the system has to offer this man, and his future seems destined to be exactly the same as his recent past: a cycle of prison and drunken vagrancy. I am satisfied that he is being dealt with as the law requires, but I beg leave to wonder what is the point of it all.