Monday, November 09, 2009

The Logjam Starts To Move

Along with many others from all levels of the judiciary I am unhappy about the trend to out-of-court disposals that has led to more than half of all so-called offences brought to justice being dealt with outside a court, by way of a simple or conditional caution, or a fixed penalty of some sort. It has enabled the government to brag, quite fraudulently, that it is bringing more and more offences to 'justice' - but what kind of justice? The Magistrates' Association, which has recently brought a long-overdue vigour and robustness to its campaigning on this topic has managed to push the issue into the public's gaze. Tonight 'Panorama' will deal with the issue (it will be available to watch again online for a week) and there is a selection of informed views
and here.

With the MA, the DPP, the Commissioner of the Met and others joining in, it looks as if the Justice Secretary will have to bow to pressure to bring the extra-judicial juggernaut under control. It must be about five years ago that I sat in a London conference centre listening incredulously to the plans for Conditional Cautions, stitched up behind closed doors by the CPS and the police. I was sitting next to a respected District Judge, and his feelings echoed mine. This was another of the snap judgments that emanated from the Blair sofa at no. 10, and not the first to have been shown to fail. It won't be the last, either.

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