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, December 03, 2006

Knife-Edge Decision

We were faced with a pre-sentence report on Kevin P, who had pleaded guilty a few days earlier. He had driven a car while disqualified, an offence that had come to the notice of the police when he drove the car off the road and into a brick wall. Bits of the brick wall were scattered across the road, blocking it. There was a traffic jam, and when Kevin looked like wandering off he was detained by other drivers. He seemed a little distracted, which transpired to be the result of his having taken drugs. When his record was printed off from the police computer it turned out that this was his fourth offence of driving while disqualified. There were other offences, but this was the most serious.
The report told us that Kevin had run out of money to top up his methadone prescription with street heroin, as had the friend in whose grubby flat he was spending the afternoon. Friend, showing the touching loyalty that one sometimes finds among druggies and alcoholics, gave Kevin a handful of tablets of who-knows-what to see if they would cheer him up. In fact they blanked him out, and it was in that state that he drove off in a car that happened to be outside. The crash happened within a mile or so.
In ordering the report our colleagues indicated that the offence was serious enough for a community penalty but might also be so serious that prison would be appropriate.
The report writer recommended a community order including a Drug Rehabilitation Requirement (drug use being, as so often, at the root of the problem)together with supervision for 18 months.
Our choice was clear. Without sorting out the drug problem, Kevin would just keep on offending. On the other hand if you don't lock someone up for a fourth drive-disqualified there is no chance of enforcing court orders.
What would you have done?