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, April 28, 2009


The question (posed by Anonimouse) that I posted yesterday has attracted a lot of replies, and those replies cover a wide range of views.
So here's what I think (said he, exercising blogger's privilege) :-

ASBOs have their place in the judicial armoury, and when they have been sensibly made there is a good case for them. The order was partly discredited in the early days when some were made that were downright silly - I don't need to list examples.

In crowded modern day England noise is one of the nastiest forms of pollution, and I am not talking about motorways and jumbo jets, but inconsiderate neighbours. I have seen many such cases in court, and it is no exaggeration to say that being stuck with noisy neighbours (a problem that is worse for poor people because they lack the option to move away) can ruin people's lives. There are a thousand ways in which the inconsiderate or downright cussed neighbour can inflict hell on the folks next door.

A local council or an individual can apply to magistrates for an order to abate noise, and if the court is satisfied on the civil standard of proof the order will be made. If the nuisance continues, then breach of the order may become a criminal offence, and magistrates will again have to decide what to do.

If, and this case seems to be one, the offenders are determined to carry on with their obnoxious behaviour then an ASBO might fit the bill. Some people (eg here) will defy the ASBO, and that pushes matters way up-tariff; the offence of breaching an ASBO is either-way and can attract a five year sentence in the Crown Court.

For alcoholics and the mentally ill an ASBO is in my view too draconian and almost certain to be breached. In this case the breaches appear to be wilful, even petulant, so I am comfortable with the breach being the subject of a charge.

This defendant has elected jury trial, unwisely in my view, because the only matter for the jury will be whether the ASBO was breached.

As for bail, regulars here will know that bail is one of the things I post about most often, because it is so little understood outside of the courts and the legal profession.

This lady has repeatedly ignored court orders, and threatened to carry on doing so. The Bail Act focuses on three issues - fail to appear, interfere with witnesses, or commit further offences. Since this lady has more or less promised to do the latter, the court had no choice but to refuse bail. She is not in custody for the original offence, but for promising to carry on doing it. And of course a remand in custody is not a punishment, nor is bail a let-off. It's a means to manage an offender before the trial that will eventually decide his guilt or innocence.