Friday, November 21, 2014

Son Of ASBO

I have never been a fan of the Anti-social Behaviour Order, as regular readers will be aware. Although the Orders have some limited usefulness, they are too often given to alcoholics and other addicts, as well as the mentally unwell.

When a Government starts to run out of ideas, just as the present one is doing, there is a temptation to introduce complex legislation, often aimed at a multiplicity of problems. Something must be done. This is something. So let's do it. The resultant law is often muddled and effectively useless, as well as sometimes unjust. The dreaded Law of Unintended Consequences comes into effect, as set out in this article.

I have just done a full day's training on the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, and apart from the usual linguistic tampering it is a ragbag of new powers, many of which do not require full judicial authority, but  rather the opinion or judgement of a police officer (or even. lord help us, a PCSO).

This continues the trend of allowing judicial powers to trickle down the system, rather as some night club bouncers are to be empowered to issue fixed penalties.

We also did a session of training on new procedures for case management. A lot of that made sense, but the cynics among us wearily noted that it will all depend on the police and CPS getting their ducks in a row. At the moment, the canards are scattered all over the farmyard.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Recommended

This post by our old friend ObiterJ puts things so well that I shall not offer my own contribution on the subject. As I get closer to the mandatory retirement age, I feel more than ever that my generation has had the best of it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sentencing and Public Opinion

Sentencers nowadays are obliged to follow the omnipresent Sentencing Guidelines, and on the whole that is what happens, although there are a couple of work-rounds available to the imaginative sentencer. Sometimes, though, there is a crime that attracts particular public anger, from recent appalling murders to, at the lower level, the case of the man who urinated on a war memorial, or the chap on my patch who stole the floral tributes left at the scene of s fatal car crash.

Recently I saw a man who stole a poppy collecting tin from a shop (with exquisite taste he did it on November 11th). He pleaded not guilty, so he will come back for trial in a few weeks. In the guidelines it is just a petty theft. If he is convicted someone (not me!) will have to sentence him for a £15 impulsive theft. What would you give him?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Caravan Sight

Apparently the police decided that this incident called for a hefty presence. I remember years ago when something on the same lines happened on our patch. There were arrests and at the subsequent trial an old-school Sergeant was asked why quite so many officers had been deployed. The unblinking  stony-faced reply came: "Safety in numbers, sir, safety in numbers".

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Worth a Look

This Post from a respected blogger is worth a read. Give it a go.(link corrected - it's the piece about cautions) . Thanks to spotters.

Weekend World

I was on the rota to sit today. We sit a full bench every Saturday and Bank Holiday, and an if-and-when-required court on Sundays. Our cheery security man told me as I arrived that we had eleven bodies downstairs, but as we worked through our list 'extras' began to appear and we ended up dealing  with about twenty cases, finishing around two o'clock. The list was fairly routine, and as usual we did not sentence many cases, but spent most of our time deciding whether to grant or withhold bail. A couple of low-level cases such as cannabis possession were met with a fine of a hundred pounds or so, and a decision to deem the sum served by the day-and-a-half that the offender had spent in custody.
A few bail decisions required extra-careful thought because we had to have regard to the interests of the complainant; today these were all female wives and partners who had been attacked or threatened by lover boy, in an alcohol or drug-fuelled rage that was often triggered by an argument about  money, these people invariably being poor.
One man was said to have punched his (by-now-ex) partner while she was holding their 14 month old son who was bruised as he fell. We had no hesitation in remanding him in custody, relying on a newish provision that he might cause harm to an 'associated person' if freed.

We dealt with a fines defaulter who had been arrested having racked up over £2000 in fines without paying a penny. The day in custody had come as a total (and nasty) surprise to him. I explained clearly that we were making a finding of Culpable Neglect against him, and that this finding empowers any subsequent bench to send him to prison. He made an over-optimistic offer of instalments, which we reduced to a realistic level, because failure to keep them up could send him inside. We ordered a review hearing in a few months' time and I checked my diary to fix it for a day when I shall be sitting, so that I was able to tell him that I expect him to keep his promises. The clerk marked the file to put it in front of me if possible. That is not usual practice,but I have been around for long enough to be able to get away with it.

So after a few drug cases, a forged driving licence matter and a few more bits and pieces, we knocked off and I went to the pub, to find that my pals had been and gone. It can be a hard life, sometimes.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Tragic Consequences

The appalling murder of Anne Maguire by an unstable teenage pupil has shocked the nation. A commenter has given the link to the judge's exemplary clear and logical sentencing remarks.

I often browse through the comments on the Daily Mail website, to stay in touch with that sector of public opinion. If you have a strong stomach have a look at the comments on the Maguire case. The sort of people who spill their bile through a modem almost always feel that no sentence is ever long enough, nor can any prison conditions be too harsh.

Numbers of the posters call for the death penalty to be exacted upon this 16 year-old boy, putting British justice on a par with that of Iran. Perhaps they would prefer it if he could be hanged from a crane, just as they do in Tehran.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Politics of Drugs

The current 'debate' about the state's approach to illegal drugs has a familiar ring to it.

I am old enough to remember a report on drugs by Baroness Wootton when I was a student.  The report was the product of a committee of people who knew their way around the subject, but that did them no good at all. The then Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan stepped firmly on any proposal to modify the drug laws, by some accounts not even reading the report. Then as now the government was terrified of tabloid headlines, and their reaction was like one of those Bateman cartoons where people express horror at something or other.

Forget the evidence, forget the facts; the drug laws are likely to stay as they are.

Lexicographers Please Note

Accidents have been abolished.

For many years RTA was police shorthand for a Road Traffic Accident,but it has been replaced by RTC - Road Traffic Collision.

The reasoning is that an accident may not be anyone's fault, hence no prosecution. A collision, on the other hand, opens the way to an investigation. That is why it is now normal practice to keep a motorway closed for some hours while the scene is examined for signs of a crime, particularly if there has been death or injury.

Mind how you go, now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Full Circle

Thanks to David W-J for pointing me to this report.

Does nobody in the MoJ have a memory longer than six weeks? The idea of sitting courts in the church hall or a disused shop or wherever was trailed some years ago until the practical difficulties surfaced, such as security for staff and JPs, installation of IT equipment and other matters.

Mr. Penning, the genius behind this idea,, says that the proposal will 'restore the principle of community justice'. So that's why your department has busily closed scores of local courts, so that many people now live up to 50 miles from their nearest one?

He goes on to say that 'some people' are 'more than happy to go off to places where they are not known'.

It isn't the opprobrium of neighbours that people fear, but rather the penalty points and the fine and the costs and the surcharge.

Finally, and most ludicrously, he says that these little people's tribunals might be 'a job for the village bobby'. Which village bobby is that, Minister?

Bah!