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.

My Photo
Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Fail-To-Surrender Monkeys

New Sentencing Guidelines have just been issued for failing to surrender to bail. The full document is here.
This is one of the commonest offences that we see in court, and covers a wide spectrum of culpability. On one occasion a defendant did not answer when called at 10 o'clock, so at about 11 we issued a no-bail warrant for his arrest. He turned up just before lunch and was arrested at the front desk by our resident police officer. He was brought straight into court looking dreadful. He was sitting in the heroin crouch, the hunched position that many junkies adopt when their hit has worn off, he had various grazes and bandages on bits of his body as well as clearly visible sutures on his face and arms. It turned out that he had in fact been anxious to get to court, and in his haste had managed to step in front of a car while trying to catch his bus. He had spent a couple of hours being patched up in A & E, hence missing his trial. He knew the system, so he had a chit from the hospital to confirm his story. There was nothing we could do, since we had sent the witnesses away, so we put the case off to another day. When that happens, the court loses a day's work, the clerk and magistrates are frustrated, and the witnesses are inconvenienced. In this case we took no action but where there is no valid excuse we impose a penalty, that might be a fine (sometimes deemed served by a night or two in the cells if the chap was picked up at the wrong time) a curfew order or a short prison sentence.
Current thinking is to be firm with those who fail to turn up, but of course a hard core minority of our customers lead such chaotic lifestyles that they either lose the bail form, or can't read it, or are too drunk or stoned to care.