Thursday, August 29, 2013

Where's The Logic?

Bystander N has posed the following question:

At seventy years plus one day I am too old to sit as a magistrate, despite possibly having enormous experience.

At seventy five years less one day I am fine to sit on a jury, despite possibly never having done it before.

Where's the Sense?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Way Way Off Topic

I was born a few miles from the then London Airport, and it was an ever present part of my young life. We could predict the weather from the direction in which flights were landing; Runway 23 meant winds from the south west, and that meant rain. Similarly, if we could smell coffee from the Nestles factory, rain was on the way. (Just a note to our pedants; anyone calling it 'Nestlay' would have been  regarded as a pretentious idiot).
I saw my first 747 Jumbo in  1968, on final approach to the westbound runway, over Hounslow. I was awed by its sheer size and the illusion that it was flying  very slowly.
This post is prompted by the fact that I am sitting  in my garden to the west of London and a steady stream of airliners is passing to my south, en route to LHR. Among them is the occasional A380 superjumbo, and despite its ungainly mien, that reminds me of some of  the gormless looking fish that are hauled out of the Mediterranean, it has a commanding presence in the air, but still looks slow.
Sorry to bother you, but it fascinates me.

Straight In Or A Bender?

Constrained as we are by ever-more-detailed  guidelines, we nevertheless still come across clear yes-no decisions that we have to take.
A recent example was a man whose offence clearly crossed the custody threshold, and the question was whether we should suspend it. The guidelines say that we must always consider suspending a custodial sentence, so consider is what we did. On the one hand it was tempting to impose a salutary immediate prison sentence and send him down the steel stairs to the Serco guards. The alternative was to suspend the sentence and impose conditions such as a curfew or unpaid work as well as probation supervision. But the real choice was between a four-month sentence (i.e. six months less a third off for the early plea) of which he would serve half. As his offence was not violent or sexual he would probably be released on a tag after a few weeks. A suspended sentence order with 200 hours of unpaid work would not attract any reduction, and would dispose of his spare time for a good few months, and allow him to continue his not-too-special job.
So an SSO it was. We had to balance the reality of either choice of sentence, and in the end the SSO seemed the best solution for him.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Bottom Line

We sat on a simple little trial the other day. I usually sit in the middle chair, but this was one of my chances to sit as a winger. We heard the crown's case, and its only witness, who was not shaken in cross examination. The unrepresented defendant, a young woman only just old enough to vote, admitted her presence at the scene, and to being upset and angry, but she staunchly denied that her anger was expressed outside the house concerned - so the issue was whether this all happened 'in a public place' . We heard from her, and we retired to think about it. To be frank, we were convinced that she had been in a temper, and that her language was to say the least indelicate,  but the case boiled down to whether the incident happened in a public place.  Of that we could not be sure to the (very high) criminal standard of proof, so we agreed to acquit her. Did she do it? Probably. Did the prosecution prove it to the required standard? No they did not, so off she went.
Call me an old softy if you must, but I found it satisfying to find a not-very-bright young woman who lives near the bottom of the heap not guilty, despite her not having legal assistance.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Worthwhile Speech From A Top Wig

Lord Justice Moses recently gave an interesting after dinner speech.

It's worth taking the time to read it.

Déjà Vu Yet Again

Governments of all parties and of none habitually announce new initiatives (often described as 'Crackdowns') that have little or nothing new about them but are intended to garner a few headlines; this technique is especially common in the Silly Season when grown-up journalists go on holiday and the kids are left in charge of the newsroom.

And so it is with the recent fuss about so-called Middle Lane Hoggers, tailgaters and suchlike motorway nuisances. Driving without due consideration is already illegal, as, of course, is careless driving. The change is to make Due Care a fixed penalty offence, which takes those picky old courts out of the process of fining drivers. Now the thing about Due Care is that the wide variation in the seriousness of bad driving has led to courts having the option of imposing between three and nine points or a disqualification, which is just the sort of thing that a bench of justices is very good at assessing. That judgement will now be made by a police officer, but here is the best bit :- the number of police patrols continues to decline, so that very few of the tickets are likely to be issued.

In the last few days I have travelled several hundred miles on motorways, and apart from 90 boring minutes sat on the M4 with the engine switched off while a fiercely burning lorry was extinguished I saw nary a patrol car, so I could have hogged the middle lane with impunity.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What Do We Think Of This?

A new film from the MoJ.

Ho Hum

I am sitting in the retiring room, wating for the staff to sort out something for us to do. Since starting at 10 O'Clock, we have heard one videolink application for bail, drunk several cups of coffee (once my colleague had made the machine work) few and set the world to rights. Nothing unusual, but it is not a good use of time.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Utterly Illogical

Tonight's television news included a piece about a missing teenage girl who has now, fortunately, been found. Some individuals have apparently been arrested on suspicion of child abduction. The report included the girl's name, and a full-face photograph. Now if the suspects come to be charged, and appear in court, the bench chairman will solemnly make a CYPA order forbidding the publication of anything that might serve to identify the young person involved. What on earth is the point of that? Isn't the cat already out of the bag?

Friday, August 09, 2013

Fame? Is That All There is?

Drifting, as one does, around the obscure shores of Google, I find that I was born in the same nursing home in the same fortnight as Nick Simper, founder member of Deep Purple, and went to the same school as him.
A decade later, I was at university with Don Airey who still plays keyboards with that band. He was pretty good even then.
Small world? Yes. Does it matter? Of course it doesn't.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Own Goal

This news report illustrates a problem that arises increasingly often these days; the advice of the Justices Clerks' Society and others is that courts should disqualify in the absence of the defendant as a matter of course. I have never agreed with this, because a defendant can always claim that he has not received the notice and there is no proof either way. If he has to stand in court and have his disqualification clearly explained by the likes of me, while the clerk records the matter, there can be no doubt. In addition, the disqualification immediately invalidates any insurance, thus probably prejudicing innocent third parties. If matey won't come to court we can simply issue a warrant for his arrest. I suspect that the new system is driven by saving money, but to me it looks like a false economy.