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.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Any magistrate will recognise the blank eyes, the slumped shoulders and the dead expression of Luke, the young man I saw this week. When he walked into the dock I had just finished reading a pre-sentence report that was bleak even by the usual standards. Old-school Probation officers could usually identify some chink of light, some possible way forward, some intervention that might, just, with a following wind, give their client a straw to grasp, if the necessary will could be summoned up (as it usually could not). Not so here; Luke's history could serve as a stereotype for any criminology lecturer to draw on:- never seen his father, mother on benefits all her adult life, two elder siblings each with a history of offending. Luke had been in and out of Council 'care' (as it is called without the slightest intended irony) and had first offended when just 12. He has now turned 18, so he falls into the adult offender category. At first his offences were acquisitive for the most part, but in recent years violence has started to appear on his record, as well as one sexual matter that has worrying implications for the future. Probation use sophisticated assessment techniques in these reports, and Luke had the worst set of indicators I have ever seen on the so-called OASYS chart. Drink, drugs, illiteracy, a total lack of any social context for himself, a loathing of the police, and admiration for the more successsful criminals in his age group all featured in the report.
What we sentenced him to is, I'm afraid, neither here nor there. It won't work, because so much damage has been done over the years that sporadic interventions by the courts and weekly meetings with his key worker will make not the slightest dent in the anti-social cloak that he has drawn about himself. The Probation assessment is that he has a 95% chance of becoming a repeat offender and of spending the best years of his life in prison. If anything 95% is on the low side, and I haven't the faintest idea what we can do about it.