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.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ooh! You Are a Caution!

The seemingly unstoppable march of the Conditional Cautioning régime continues. It suits the Government's priorities to have what it sees as 'low level' crime dealt with behind closed doors by the police and the CPS, without the inconvenience and old-fashioned formality of a court appearance. If the 'cautionee' (I can't call him a defendant, because he isn't being defended) fails to abide by the conditions then he will be charged with the original offence, and this has to be done within six months. These cases are now trickling into the courts, and JPs are having to get to grips with where they fit in to the great scheme of things.
I saw one last week that irritated even my always-reasonable self. I can't remember what the offence was, but the conditions of the caution were to pay compensation (I have no problem with that: paying a victim for harm you have caused is about as near as we get to natural justice) and to write a letter of apology to the victim. Admittedly I was a bit grumpy, possibly because the courthouse heating had packed up again and the people in the well of the court were all in outdoor clothes; but what idiot dreamed up the idea of making miscreants apologise? (If someone uses the words Louise and Casey I shan't be surprised; that woman is to the justice system what Goering was to Coventry).
Most who appear before magistrates, especially if you exclude traffic cases, are of limited or zero literacy, and couldn't possibly write a letter to anyone without prompting. And how sincere will the letters be, bearing in mind that they are being written at the behest of a copper or a CPS functionary?
Dear Mrs. Smith, I am just riting to apog no aplo no, i mean say sorry that i done what i done on saterdy look on the brite side i say. cars are well cheap at the mo an you orter get anuvver crappy old Rover well under a monkey. So im sorry, really. im sending you five pound a week outa me jobseekers as soon as im old enuf to get some thats if i dont go to Feltam first. sinserly yors Darren

Perhaps we need to devise a simple pro-forma with boxes to tick denoting various levels of apology. Bah!