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.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Another Tricky Sentence

Sometimes the probation officer draws a complete blank when writing a pre-sentence report . We had a man before us, convicted of a drunken rampage, who was in line for a community order package incorporating supervision, unpaid work, and alcohol treatment. In interview he flatly denied that he had a drink problem, and said that he did not have anything to be sorry about, it was just that people were picking on him. He would not accept any kind of supervision or programme. The report said that the officer could not make any proposal that would help the court. The defendant had sacked his solicitor, so there was no help from that direction either.

Normally, when a community penalty is proposed, that will bind the sentencing bench to go no higher, since a legitimate expectation has been created. In this case, after a consultation with the clerk, we told our man that in view of his refusal to engage with the probation service we now had to reconsider the question of custody, and we would put the case back for him to see the duty solicitor. At this point, just to muddy the water further, the prosecutor jumped up and asked us to consider making a post-conviction ASBO of the court's own motion.

Gratifyingly, once the case came back into court a couple of hours later our man had undergone an attitude adjustment. It simply hadn't dawned on him previously that if we couldn't impose a community penalty we would consider sending him inside. Now he was prepared to comply with a community penalty. But what about the ASBO? Lots of us don't like putting ASBOs on drunks, because they are bound to be breached and we are setting them up to fail.

One of my colleagues had a good think over lunch, and when we reassembled he came up with a masterly solution. A Suspended Sentence Order with an alcohol treatment programme does the trick neatly - there is a powerful deterrent to further offending, thus obviating the need for an ASBO, and the alcohol problem can be addressed. Job done.