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, September 21, 2006

Bits and Pieces

We had a bitty day today, as our scheduled trial was 'cracked'. A cracked trial is where one side or another throws in the towel, with the defendant pleading guilty or the prosecutor offering no evidence. The issues at stake were factual, as the various witnesses' stories were a mile apart, and the sum allegedly stolen was only about £100.
We went in at ten o'clock, and stayed for two minutes while the prosecutor asked for time to make efforts to contact the three witnesses (out of five) who were missing. We went back outside to the coffee machine. Ten minutes later, we went back in, to be told that the loser of the £100 may not be available today, and that the two key prosecution witnesses were absent and that their phones were turned off. The prosecutor applied for an adjournment, and the defence counsel got to his feet to spend five minutes resisting the application. He managed to have his cake and eat it by telling us how disappointed he would be if he were unable to demolish the two missing witnesses, while urging us to refuse to adjourn. Refuse we did, and the prosecutor then offered no evidence and I told the defendant that the case was dismissed. With our day's business gone we took work from other courtrooms, varying from search warrants, to a bit of case management, to sending a couple of unpleasant young men who had committed a distraction burglary on an old couple to the Crown Court for sentence, our powers being totally inadequate for such a nasty crime.
We were truly surprised to see a scion of one of our perennially-offending local families turn up clutching a Certificate of Motor Insurance, something that has never before featured among their family's posessions. Unfortunately for young Dermot (one of the few not named after a Pope or a saint) the certificate had been taken out two days after his being stopped by the police, so after a word with the clerk he bowed to the inevitable and changed his plea to guilty. We fined and banned him, and had to do without the usual means form because he is a stranger to the mysteries of reading and writing. He is a dab hand with a shovel though, and he earns £550 per week (in cash, of course). We moved on to dealing with a man with a Bart Simpson haircut who had been fined a few hundred pounds last year, had paid about half, then stopped. He was rather indignant at having been arrested and claimed not to have noticed that the payments had ceased being deducted from his benefits.
Matters livened up when the two missing witnesses from earlier turned up an hour and a half late, and were indignant that the case had gone ahead. They said they had tried to phone (believe me, the number of letters and phone calls to and from the courthouse that are alleged to have gone astray is phenomenal - I must have heard the phrase "I never got no letter" hundreds of times). I pointed out firmly that if they had been on time things might have been different, and when I heard that they had been rude to court staff in the lobby, I gave them a few choice words of advice before sending them away.
We dealt with a third-time drink driver, who was still serving a ban for one of the previous offences, so we put it off for pre-sentence reports, and I warned him firmly that he was facing a prison sentence. Finally there was a man in his twenties with fourteen previous convictions for drunk and disorderly. He had spent a night in the cells, so we fined him £100 to be taken out of his benefit and added £43 costs.
So that was it, a richly varied diet of day-to-day magistrates' business. I was back in my home town and walking into the pub before 5 o'clock.