Saturday, November 08, 2014

Weekend World

I was on the rota to sit today. We sit a full bench every Saturday and Bank Holiday, and an if-and-when-required court on Sundays. Our cheery security man told me as I arrived that we had eleven bodies downstairs, but as we worked through our list 'extras' began to appear and we ended up dealing  with about twenty cases, finishing around two o'clock. The list was fairly routine, and as usual we did not sentence many cases, but spent most of our time deciding whether to grant or withhold bail. A couple of low-level cases such as cannabis possession were met with a fine of a hundred pounds or so, and a decision to deem the sum served by the day-and-a-half that the offender had spent in custody.
A few bail decisions required extra-careful thought because we had to have regard to the interests of the complainant; today these were all female wives and partners who had been attacked or threatened by lover boy, in an alcohol or drug-fuelled rage that was often triggered by an argument about  money, these people invariably being poor.
One man was said to have punched his (by-now-ex) partner while she was holding their 14 month old son who was bruised as he fell. We had no hesitation in remanding him in custody, relying on a newish provision that he might cause harm to an 'associated person' if freed.

We dealt with a fines defaulter who had been arrested having racked up over £2000 in fines without paying a penny. The day in custody had come as a total (and nasty) surprise to him. I explained clearly that we were making a finding of Culpable Neglect against him, and that this finding empowers any subsequent bench to send him to prison. He made an over-optimistic offer of instalments, which we reduced to a realistic level, because failure to keep them up could send him inside. We ordered a review hearing in a few months' time and I checked my diary to fix it for a day when I shall be sitting, so that I was able to tell him that I expect him to keep his promises. The clerk marked the file to put it in front of me if possible. That is not usual practice,but I have been around for long enough to be able to get away with it.

So after a few drug cases, a forged driving licence matter and a few more bits and pieces, we knocked off and I went to the pub, to find that my pals had been and gone. It can be a hard life, sometimes.


  1. Re: the direct or indirect injury to the child. Section 1 of the Childrens Act 1989 places the interests of the child as paramount (sic). That trumps a lot of things, and a custody decision at a weekend is well within that rubric, I should think. No need for the new 'associated person' provision.

  2. I am happy to be proved wrong but I do not think S1 of Childrens Act 1989 is a lawful exception to the right to bail - at least not directly.


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