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, March 20, 2007

Noble Cause Indignation

Over on Inspector Gadget's blog there has been a great volume of posts about the horrible case of PC Coffill, a Met officer who was attacked by two young men while off duty, and who suffered catastrophic injuries from which he will never fully recover. You can read the details for yourself, but what triggered an explosion of righteous anger was the fact that the Court of Appeal reduced the young men's sentences. I deliberately refrained from commenting until I could read the Appeal judges' reasons, but I have drawn a blank, and I cannot find their sentencing remarks anywhere, despite having cut a few corners to gain access to the major legal databases. So I have no idea why the sentences were reduced, but I do start from the premise that Appeal Court judges are neither stupid nor malicious, and that their rulings arise from careful adherence to the law. Anything that I say about the case is the merest speculation, and the only firm idea that I have about it is that their relative youth may have something to do with the decision.
The many comments and follow-ups to Gadget's posts are, I am afraid to say, frequently disturbing. Quite rightly police officers are loyal to each other, just like soldiers, firefighters, and others who put themselves into danger to help and protect civilians. Nevertheless these are all disciplined services, and that is why I am concerned at the intemperate and vituperative nature of some of the posts that purport to come from serving officers. It is particularly unfortunate that Gadget leads off with a link to a photograph of Mrs. Justice Dobbs, who was only one of a bench of judges, but who just happens to be black and a woman. Make of that what you will. There is a much-trailed 'revelation' from someone claiming to be a juror on the original trial alleging bad behaviour from the defendants' supporters, but it can't have made much difference since they were convicted.
We all know that people say things from behind a keyboard that they would not say in public. We know that police officers have a fierce, almost tribal loyalty. Some of what appears on Gadget's blog does the Met no credit, and there is no disrespect to PC Coffill in my saying that.
I shall send a cheque to the fund for the officer's family, and I hope that others will too. Gadget's blog is here.

In the meantime, a little information would be welcome. What were they charged with? Section 20, Section 18, or what? What were the original sentences (I think it was at Croydon) and what were they reduced to? Has anyone got a copy of the CoA judgment, or at least the sentencing remarks? There has been enough heat in this debate, and I would welcome a little light.

Gadget is to be applauded for taking down much of the comment on this issue. I am sure that the feelings expressed were sincere and heartfelt, but they did not always cast a flattering light on their authors.