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, July 29, 2010


The Government's approach to its inheritance from the Blair years is refreshing to many of us who work in criminal justice, but may I urge caution; experience shows that a simple-looking quick fix is usually anything but. For example:-

Mrs May is to give the police discretion to tackle antisocial behaviour by making offenders repair the damage they have caused or take part in “positive community activity”. It might, for example, in some circumstances be right to make a person rebuild a fence he or she had knocked down.

Fine, media friendly, will go down well in the saloon bar and in the golf club.
But take this perfectly plausible scenario:-

Drunken young man admits knocking down a fence. What a good idea to make him rebuild it!
But who gives the order, under what powers, and how is it to be enforced?
What is the sanction for (likely) non-compliance?

So the order is (somehow) made.
Who buys the materials? The young man is on fifty quid a week Jobseekers, and the fence needs £250 of materials. Who pays B&Q for the stuff?
Who supervises him? Does the old lady who owns the fence really want this six-foot-two simian yob in her garden?
What does Health-and-Safety have to say about giving this job to an untrained semi-literate and gormless teenager? Whoever orders the job done has a duty of care. Uh-Oh. Someone envisages Mr.Yobbo putting a pickaxe (that someone will have to lend him) through his foot. Trouble, lawyers, Daily Mail reporters looming into sight.

Alternatively, put him before a bench of magistrates who have the power to make him carry out unpaid work as well as awarding compensation to the old lady. Compensation is not covered by the income-related restrictions on fines, so it can be taken from his benefits for as long as it takes.
We have had enough claptrap gimmmicks in the last dozen years or so. No more, please Home Secretary, no more.