Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Restraining Orders - a Note For The Hard of Thinking

I spent today dealing with Domestic Violence cases. Most were first appearances, where we take a plea, and decide how to move the case forward, and in the event of a guilty plea we either sentence there and then or order pre-sentence reports.

A couple of cases involved breach of a restraining order, and one of those was a particularly bad one in which a man received an RO on conviction and breached it quite soon afterwards, taking the trouble to track down his (now ex) girlfriend to her workplace to rant at her, frightening her so badly that she had to ask a workmate to walk her home.

Now look here, mister. If a court, at whatever level of the system, orders (note that word) you not to do something, and you then go ahead and do it, do not be surprised if you end up in a cell.  We would never announce in court that you are taking the piss, but that is what we might just say out the back, and inside you are likely to go.


  1. Is there any chance the Bystander team could offer some comment on the legal reasons behind sentencing decisions like this?

    To a layman, it seems an incredibly stiff sentence for £9,000 worth of damage - that's worse than I've seen people get for for assault, resisting arrest and some other violent crimes. Interesting that the probation service also recommended a community sentence as well and that there is no evidence presented in the article that he had prior involvement with the law.

    Come to think of it, I'd be very interested in reading your thoughts on sentencing idiosyncrasies in general. Are crown court judges more or less free to choose the sentence, or are they bound by sentencing guidelines in a similar way to magistrates?

    1. This is what the Judge said:-

      Judges have guidelines just like magistrates and must give reasons if they go outside them. The maximum for this offence is ten years at the Crown Court. According to the Guidelines damage to a public amenity is an aggravating feature, as is the high value of the damage.

      Guidelines were brought in to reduce disparities in sentencing. When I joined the Bench the only guidelines were four sides of A4 on motoring offences.

      It looks as if the judge added bit of deterrence into the mix as he is entitled to do.

    2. Thank you! I hadn't realised it was possible to read the sentencing remarks directly...I have bookmarked!

      Interesting that the judge also had an eye for the wider impact of potentially stopping the practice of viewing art 'up close'.

  2. A 6 months sentence is within the guideline range so the judge wouldn't have to give reasons for sentence. Starting point for damage <£10,000 is 12 weeks custody with a range from 6 weeks to 26 weeks. The aggravating factors mentioned about justify 26 weeks.


  3. Your post seems to embody the living breathing principle of the Rule of Law. Having said that, the Rule of Law makes no comment on the fairness of the particular law it seeks to uphold. This holds true whether that law is concerned with the length of a custodial sentence or whether it fails to recognise a justified protest against the denial of natural justice owed to a father estranged from his children's lives.

  4. The rule of law is indeed not about opinions about what is fair. After all, 'fairness' can only ever be subjective.

    For example, I myself think it's massively unfair that people are criminalised for small amounts of drug possession. But what I think is irrelevant if I am on a bench sentencing them.


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