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.

Monday, May 28, 2007

More About Addicts

The comments to the two previous posts are predominantly hostile, and in a couple of cases have misinterpreted what I said. To be quite clear, the three week adjournment (for a fresh report) was not something that we chose to do to help the man, it was a legal necessity. The point I was trying to make was that once we had revoked the community order and bailed him to the next hearing he was on his own, hence my efforts to point him towards the voluntary drug service. We had no power to order anything.
Nobody has the answer to drug addiction, including me, but there are certain inescapable facts, first among them the fact that for low-level thefts (most of those we see are £100 or less) no prison sentence of any length is going to be imposed. Secondly, imprisonment simply doesn't prevent reoffending. About eighty per cent of these petty thieves will reoffend within a year or two of release. There are a number of pilot specialist drug courts, one of the best-known of which is West London. District Judge Justin Phillips (whom I have met at a conference) has a policy of following through the people he deals with, having them in for a review, in an informal setting, every six weeks or so. He talks to them about their rehab progress, their families, and their lives in general, but he backs this up by being perfectly prepared, as he makes clear, to send them inside if they let him down. It isn't the answer, but it is a start, and early results suggest that it has a better chance of preventing reoffending than the disjointed system that my court operates, where the offender will see a different bench every time. There is much work to be done on this, and everyone involved is realistic enough to expect setbacks and disappointments, but I believe that it is worth a try. If my bench sets up a drug court I shall volunteer to work in it.