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, February 19, 2008

Big Cat Small Mouse

This BBC report is about a typically heavy-handed response to the breach of an ASBO that should never have been made in the first place. I have dealt with many similar cases, where addicted or confused people inconvenience others in an airport, or a shopping centre, or a railway station, are given an ASBO, and proceed to breach it time after time. Normal people wouldn't do that, knowing as normal people would that ASBO breach can carry up to five years inside, but alcoholics and mentally ill people don't really understand the situation, and stumble blindly back into the maw of the courts.
In a typical case (and I am thinking of one a few weeks ago) the solicitor tells us that he has been representing his client for two dozen years, that the man is an alcoholic, and that he will not change, whatever we do. We are more or less invited to get on with locking him up, because the guidelines have an entry point of custody. In the case I am thinking of we went way outside the guidelines and handed down the shortest possible prison sentence, that he had served on remand over the weekend, allowing his immediate release. In other cases I have seen pathetic wrecks of men given their third and fourth six-month sentence, to be served in our crammed prisons while hard core offenders are transferred to open jails to make room for the new inmates. Almost all of them barely rise above the category of nuisances, while the politicians try to work out ways of preventing us from imprisoning serious criminals.
ASBOs were never meant to deal with this sort of thing, and in these circumstances they are not just unjust and unfair, they are wasteful and ineffective too.