Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Reader, we imprisoned him.
We carried out a structured sentencing exercise and the three of us agreed that while the entry point for drive disqualified (there was no charge in respect of drugs because there was no evidence) is a community penalty, the fact that this was his fourth offence and that there had been a serious accident pushed it up the tariff and over the custody threshold. He had also breached a previous community penalty, suggesting an unwillingness or inability to comply with non-custodial disposals.
So we were entitled to give him a supervision order with a Drug Rehab Requirement (in fact that would have needed a further report, but let's not be diverted) or a prison sentence. This could be immediate or suspended, and if suspended we could impose requirements, as with a supervision order. None of these was necessarily the right or the wrong answer - it was an exercise in judgement. As a bench we were balanced for experience, one colleague being on his fifth sitting, but having the benefit of recent and up to date training.
What clinched our decision was when we asked ourselves to summarise what had happened, and to ask what would amount to justice. A man who was on his fourth driving ban, off his face on unknown drugs, driving away and having a crash that mercifully injured or killed no one. Each time that he had been banned he had been warned that defying the court's order could result in custody, he had failed to be deterred and had commited an offence that would outrage the public.
Six months then, reduced by a bit to reflect a late plea of guilty. Punishment pure and simple, but at the end of a careful process we decided that we had to do it. A different bench might have taken a different course, but they would not necessarily be right nor would we necessarily be wrong. Each of the available sentences had something to recommend it. It's the sort of judgement that we are put there to make.

Cautionary Note I am grateful for all of the thoughtful and informed comments, but please don't attach too much importance to the details as this case, like all of the cases on this blog, is a composite, chosen to illustrate an aspect of the JP's job.

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