Friday, January 05, 2007

It's Quiet Out There, Hoskins - Too Quiet

There isn't a lot going on at the moment. There was the holiday break of course, and a lull in police activity on 'routine' crime. Quite a few courts were cancelled over the last two weeks (including one of mine) because there wasn't enough work to go around. A number of new laws are coming into effect, and the lawyers are trying to find time to get a grip before they are faced with a live case. Our legal advisers are on a work-to-contract so out of hours and Saturday work are having to be concentrated in a few courts. They are understandably fed up with a below-inflation pay increase, and are apprehensive about a massive pay and grading review scheduled for mid-2007. This will impose a consistent structure across the government's legal services, and as in all such exercises there will be winners and losers. At least it should end the anomaly whereby one of my legal advisers can improve his salary by £5000 or more by moving to the CPS - it cannot make sense for government departments to compete with each other for broadly similar posts.
I spent a bit of time chatting to two local PCs this week as they were in the road outside my house waiting for someone to turn up. I asked them how their Sanction Detection figures were going, and I heard the usual tale of targets being met by a blizzard of fixed penalty tickets for (mostly) Section 5 Public Order Act and cannabis posession offences. As ever, crime statistics are being shamelessly massaged, which is a regular theme on the Policeman's Blog. Burglary figures a bit high? Easy - charge all the little ones as Criminal Damage. Violent offences making the town look bad? Nick 'em for Drunk and Disorderly. Job done.
There are several consultations going on at the moment on changes to management of the courts and on 'Making Sentencing Clearer' so I shall have to get together with colleagues to formulate our responses. My modest study is crammed with paperwork from HMCS and all the other arms of Government that feel the need to write to me. A ruthless weeding-out session is on the cards, I think. I hope they are planting lots of trees in Norway. The English legal system is going to need them.

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