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, January 13, 2008

There But For The Grace of God......

This horrible story is a reminder of the awesome responsibility involved in granting or refusing bail. The Bail Act prescribes the right to bail, unless there are fears of the defendant absconding, committing further offences, or interfering with witnesses. In this case the Judge (and it could have been a magistrate or magistrates) dealt with the fear of failure to surrender by imposing a whopping surety of £200,000. Now two more people are dead, the judge and prosecutors having had no way of looking into the mind of the man involved.
There is no reason to criticise the judge or magistrate involved in a case like this. Locking up an unconvicted person should only be done for very good reason. As it turned out, this one went wrong in a way that may not have been forseeable.
Many magistrates will be faced with difficult bail decisions tomorrow. They will follow the law, but they will also need just a bit of luck to get it right.

Later:- here is a blinding flash of the obvious. The early panic reaction of MoJ people who saw the headlines proves that many of them do not have a clue what an independent judiciary is there for, and think that the correct response to a story such as this one is to drop heavy hints about leaning on the judge.