Saturday, May 18, 2013

Safety First

It is unusual to see a defendant brought into court wearing handcuffs. I have only seen a cuffed customer on a handful of occasions over the years, but yesterday I saw another one. The senior Serco guard from downstairs came into court with a written application to bring up the next defendant in handcuffs, and before he spoke the clerk gave us a briefing on the applicable procedure.
Cuffs are to be avoided whenever possible, because of the danger that they will prejudice the bench (or jury) against the defendant, but the court may grant permission under certain circumstances. Yesterday the person concerned had assaulted two staff by punching them in the face, and had then spent some time kicking off in her cell. We felt that cuffs were justified, so up she came.
We had to adjourn her case to get a report on her mental state, as something was clearly wrong.
She was just another example of the people who drop through the cracks between the courts and the NHS.


  1. Sadly, mental health issues do not have the attention they warrant. If it was a disease such as cancer or heart disease, there would be demands on the Government to do something and there would be very well funded charities to carry out research and lobby. The Irony struck me while I was watching a documentary on Channel 4 about mental health issues. During the break there was an ad soliciting donations for a heart disease charity.

  2. In BS team's courts it may be unusual, but in our courts it is normal practice for custodies to be brought up into the dock in handcuffs; once safely in the dock, the cuffs are removed. Unless being released on bail, the defendant is then handcuffed again before being taken back down to the cells. Prejudice has never entered my mind.

  3. 'Cuffed', 'handful'. Bad pun.

  4. This happened to me once with a violent defendant and we made the same decision.

  5. I would have thought that the very fact that a defendant was brought from the cells was a good indicator of previous form since they'd generally need to be well known to the authorities to justify a remand in the first place. Handcuffs wouldn't make much difference.

    1. A remand in custody can be because the defendant does not have a suitable address to be bailed to, in order to avoid the (demonstrated) risk that the defendant would seek to interfere with witnesses, as a result of breaching bail conditions in a sufficiently serious way as to forfeit the right to bail, or for their own protection. None of these would necessarily imply "previous".

  6. Crimminal Justice System bloke20 May 2013 at 10:10

    @ anonymous - not necessarily. They might have been picked up on a warrant, might have been held overnigt from a police station etc

  7. @Jaguar:

    Recognising that prejudice has no place in the mind of a JP, and not doubting you, what is the situation / training with regard to personal bias ? Are personal bias and prejudice viewed as one and the same thing in the legal environment ?

  8. They amount to the same thing.

    Prejudice translates from the Latin as 'pre-judge' and the selection and training of magistrates is designed to detect and to exclude it.

    All that matters is the evidence presented in court, and whether it is enough to make the bench (or jury) *sure* that the Crown has proved its case. I sat on a case this very day, where we could not be sure to the very high standard required, so we acquitted.


Posts are pre-moderated. Please bear with us if this takes a little time, but the number of bores and obsessives was getting out of hand, as were the fake comments advertising rubbish.