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.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Recreational Violence

We had to deal with a case of affray against a group of young men. This is an either-way offence and to reinforce his recommendation that we should decline jurisdiction and commit the matter to the Crown Court the prosecutor read us the case summary and handed up still photographs taken from the large amount of CCTV evidence he had available.

The men had gone out drinking in the town, and became rowdy, at which time they were asked to leave the pub they were in. They made their way to another, and after a while they were again asked to leave.

They swaggered, foul-mouthed and belligerent, into the street where, entirely unprovoked, they set about a couple of young men who were innocently making their way past. The melée spilled into the road, and a driver, who had been forced to brake, remonstrated with the group; he too was set on for his pains.

Our town centre is well covered by high quality CCTV and the stills clearly identified individuals who were kicking figures lying curled up on the pavement, and after seeing them we had no hesitation in sending the case to the Crown Court to be dealt with.

Standing in the dock they looked like an unexceptional group of young men. The public preconception is that they should either look like furtive hoodies or Neanderthal thugs but their main feature was their apparent normality.

The inescapable fact is that for many young men violence is welcomed as a part of their social life, providing an outlet for male aggression in a world in which women are taking on former male roles, and in which strength no longer carries the premium that it did. Alcohol was the trigger that set off this explosion of violence, but they probably expected that would be the case when they went out.

Once this sort of thing becomes socially embedded the only possible police response is to meet force with force (and I have spoken to a good few young officers who don't mind a bit of rough stuff on a Saturday night either). Sentencing will have to be at a deterrent level, but whether anyone will be deterred is another question altogether.