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.

My Photo
Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Yet More Useless and Unnecessary Claptrap

Still the Government blunders on, passing useless and damaging laws for the sake of a cheap headline. Now, according to the BBC, parents (or more likely the parent) of kids who don't go to school are to be threatened with fines and imprisonment.

Children who skip school are vastly more likely than their peers to end up in trouble, and will face a lifetime stuck on the fringes of society and the economy. They are a social and an educational problem. But they are not a criminal justice problem - at least not yet.

What are we supposed to do, faced with Miss Smith, 30 but looks 40, lives on a crap estate, and is on benefits, as she had been since her son Dwayne was born when she was 16? Dwayne is now heading for six feet tall, like the father he has never seen. He can't read and write and finds school meaningless despite the heroic efforts of his teachers. His social worker can't do a lot more than keep his file up to date. He has been bunking off for years and hanging out with his gormless mates.

Miss S pleads guilty (no choice, really). Under the guidelines her Relevant Weekly Income is deemed to be £100, so we fine her Band A (£50 less a third, so call it £35) plus Surcharge (£15) and costs (cut those back a bit so say £30). We make a Deduction from Benefit Order to take the fine out of her benefits at £5 per week. What the hell will all that achieve?

The truancy problem is important and complex. It needs painstaking, down-and-dirty work at the school, on the estate and in the home. It will be expensive and unglamorous. It may well fail anyway. But it's more use than dragging an inadequate mother into the dock of a criminal court.