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, May 20, 2008

A Mixed Day

I was down to chair a trial, a matter of domestic violence, listed for 11 am. Before 11 we dealt with a couple of POCA applications, where the police applied to detain cash that they had seized in suspicious circumstances. What we heard was suspicious in the extreme, with suspects first denying having any cash, then changing their mind, then giving an explanation, then changing that. We granted the orders to detain the money rather than to seize it, as seizure applications will be dealt with in some months' time. These proceedings were civil rather than criminal, which meant that we were working on the Balance of Probability, rather than our usual Beyond Reasonable Doubt criteria. A side effect of this is that Legal Aid will not be available, and we often see people who are struggling to understand what is going on.
We then dealt with a few committals to the Crown Court, that were put before us because we had a proper Crown Prosecutor, rather than the Designated Case Worker who was in the Remand Court. DCWs can't do committals, at least not yet, but as the system continues to dumb down and take the cheap option I expect that these 'Lawyer-Lite' types (soon to be renamed 'Associate Prosecutors') will end up doing everything that qualified lawyers now do, at least in the lower courts.
A quick coffee, to allow the lawyers to sort out some details, and it was time to start the trial. Or not, as it happened. The victim and a witness had each made withdrawal statements some time ago, and the CPS had responded, as per policy, by obtaining Witness Summonses for them to attend. Attend they did, but once in the Witness Service suite they made it clear that there was no way they would come in and give evidence. That was stalemate, because they had successfully called the CPS' bluff, since no court, at this level of offence, would punish a victim for refusing to give evidence. The Prosecutor made the best of a bad job by giving a full explanation of the reasoning behind what had happened, before offering no evidence. Case dismissed. The defence solicitor applied for his client's (modest) costs, but we refused, on the basis that the defendant had brought the case upon himself.
That, after a couple of bail applications, was our list so we had some more coffee while the staff looked around to see if we could help other courts.
"The next case is Mr. Levy, sir" called the usher. Straight away I thought: 'Daniel Isaac Levy' a regular customer who committed his first offence the year I was sworn in as a JP, and whom I have seen on a regular basis ever since. He is a 69 year old alcoholic, with a basketful of mental health issues. Inevitably, he is on an ASBO, and equally inevitably he has breached it eleven times, resulting in nine prison sentences. He has committed over a hundred offences since 1990. He is on remand, and is applying for bail. The application is quite hopeless because he has a long history of failing to surrender, breaching bail conditions and offending on bail, so he doesn't look too surprised when we refuse. Lunch beckons, and the clerk doesn't think that we will finish too late.