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.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Information Underload

Like a lot of people I sometimes watch one of the many Real Police type of TV programmes. I think that these are a good way of showing those of us who spend the small hours of the night safely tucked up in bed some of the things that are going on in our locality. One series focuses on Thames Valley, which is where I live, and I recognise many of the places that feature in the clips. Of course, telly being a visually demanding medium, there is lots of footage from patrol cars and even helicopters (nice to see where my Council Tax goes though). At the end of the programme the narrator often says what sentence was handed to the offender, and I am sure that I am not the only person to be surprised at the relatively mild punishments imposed.
When you have seen the potentially homicidal driving of the (usually uninsured) young men for whom stopping for the police is seen as a bit uncool, the Dangerous Driving charge seems pretty obvious, and the eventual sentence looks plain silly. The Dangerous guideline is here at page 120 of the pdf.
And there is my point. Take a typical clip in which the driver chooses to put innocent lives at risk. I see it, you see it, the officers see it.
But the magistrates don't.
These days, driven mostly by cost but sometimes by indolence, police and CPS are happy to take the low-hanging fruit of TWOC or Due Care or No Insurance, and turn their backs on Dangerous because of the cost and difficulty of proving it if their man goes Not Guilty. But the kind of driving we are looking at here can only properly be met with a prison sentence. JPs who saw the film (which they do not on a guilty plea) and heard the full facts would, I am sure, go for custody. But what they do get is a skimpy account recounted by a harassed and overworked Associate Prosecutor and bargained-down charges that lead to under-sentencing. And that isn't justice. But it may be all we can afford.