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.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Déja Vu Again (no 244 of a series)

If you go to the search box in the top left-hand corner of the blog front page and type in 'ASBO' you will find that these orders have concerned me for some time. Most people in the system recognise them for the populist claptrap that they can so easily become, although anyone who can be bothered to read through my archived posts can see that I think the orders have a part to play when properly thought through and sensibly formulated. Their usage is in decline.
This week one of our regular customers turned up for sentence on a handful of offences, and for consideration of an ASBO application. He is in his early fifties, but looks twenty years older, is an alcoholic with mental problems, and is a pain in the bum to the local population, when drunk. As it happened we had to put the case off because the psychiatric report that had been ordered by my colleagues wasn't ready. He squinted at me through his bleary eyes, and nodded his head as I explained S-L-O-W-L-Y that the case couldn't go ahead and that he has to come back in three weeks or so.

I shan't see him when he comes back. I have no idea what will be in the reports. I don't know what the answer is to a dim and confused alcoholic who staggers around, swears at strangers, and calls the fire brigade for no reason. But I do know that the answer isn't an ASBO, because ASBOs only deter those with the mental capacity to be deterred. At this point, I would implore any MOJ staffer who has access to Ken Clarke's inbox and who happens to read this stuff - and I know there are a few of you - to tell him that what's going to happen here is typical of the reason why prisons are cluttered up with inadequates.

He will be given an ASBO prohibiting various pain-in-the-arse activities. He will breach it within a few weeks. He will probably get a suspended 28 days or so. He will breach it again. He will go inside for, in reality, a few weeks. He will come out better fed and less smelly than he went in. Then he will breach again. JPs will get fed up with him and send him to the wigs for sentence. A Recorder with a busy list will glance at the guidelines and give him nine months. Guess what happens when he comes out? Go on; you know don't you? Breach, prison, and so on to the crack of doom. And the underlying offences, of drunkenness, Section 5 POA and the rest are all low-level fine-only jobs.

Clear him and his like out of the prisons, Mr. Clarke, and you will be well on the way to your 3000 reduction in the prisoner headcount. But you will have to find something else to do with them.