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.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pragmatism Can Pay

We have had a few recent comments on defendants who spend more time on remand than they eventually receive as a sentence (not to mention those acquitted and freed after many months of incarceration). A defence brief with whom I am on drinking terms tells me that when people turn up at a UK port having disposed of their passports and ID before claiming asylum they will often be charged with a 'Section 2' passport offence. The higher courts' guidance to magistrates is imprisonment of 2-5 months, or in reality two to ten weeks inside. As unidentified foreign nationals these people are unlikely to be granted bail so anything other than a swift guilty plea is likely to result in a pre-trial delay that will exceed the real likely sentence. If Crown Court trial is chosen, the delay could stretch to three months or more. So a pragmatic solicitor will usually advise his client to plead, even if there might be a possible defence in the background. Apparently these cases have tailed off recently due to a Human Rights decision. They always struck me as a bit pointless anyway. If you are prepared to uproot from your home friends and family and travel halfway round the world to an uncertain future in the UK, a few weeks in prison are unlikely to be a deterrent.