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, June 15, 2008

Expensive Fibs and Other Stuff

Having blogged about the Court of Appeal's stern new guidelines on knife crime, I was recently faced with a simple case of possession of a lock knife by a man of 22. Probation recommended a community penalty, and six weeks ago he might well have got one, but inside he went for six weeks; long enough to make the point but not long enough to allow him to acclimatise in prison. We then dealt with a Proceeds of Crime Act case that raised some interesting points of law and taught me a bit about drug dealing. Unfortunately the really interesting bits are too hot to blog about, at least for some time.
Not for the first time we saw a criminal prosecution (under the Fraud Act 2006) for making a false statement to obtain car insurance - in this case non-disclosure of a conviction. Because the policy was ipso facto void, the driver was also charged with having no insurance. That little lie has cost him a fine, a driving ban, a blacklisting by the insurance industry, and a conviction for fraud to add to his CV.
We had to decide on bail in a Domestic Violence case. If we grant bail it is good practice to impose conditions of non-contact, and to order geographical separation to prevent further offences, but sometimes, as here, the victim has made a withdrawal statement and wants her husband home. CPS policy will be to witness summons the victim and go ahead, but the chance of a conviction will be pretty low, so what do we do? It can't be a good idea to allow victim and offender to sleep in the same bed, but they say they have made up, and they need to make a start on rebuilding their relationship. There is no right answer to this one, and it is a matter for the judgment and experience of the bench. Hundreds of these decisions come before magistrates every week, and of course a proportion of them go wrong, but as I have often said, every bail decision is a calculated risk, within the framework of the Bail Act. That doesn't stop the press pillorying the magistrates if something nasty does happen.