Monday, June 30, 2014


Sorry there isn't a lot going on, but I'm in Brittany, with just an iPad, and McDonalds' weefy to rely on. Back next week.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

So It's NFA Then........

This report speaks for itself. Perhaps in future those who rushed to condemn will think twice.

Here's what we said at the time

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

That's A New One

We were listed to hear an all-day trial yesterday, but the defendant had returned to his Eastern European home town a week ago, where he sadly died, so that was the end of that.
We busied ourselves with a few Search Warrants, which are much more complicated these days, following High Court rulings that a warrant is a serious interference with the citizen's liberty. There is now a multi-page application form on which the judge or justice has to state reasons for granting the warrant. JPs who deal with warrants at home have to be extra careful these days.
 I have never dealt with an application at home because I live too far from the court, but colleagues who live a short way from the police station are well used to a nocturnal phone call from the duty clerk followed by a visit from an officer.
We then dealt with a couple of Pre-Sentence Report cases, both involving Eastern Europeans, and I was able to warn them that if they were tempted to ignore the financial penalties, such as costs and surcharge, the fact would come up on the Border Force computer every time that they came to the UK, when they could expect some cell time at the airport.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


This article summarises planned increases to the maximum fine levels that may be imposed by magistrates. The press have mostly jumped to the conclusion that the maximum fine will become he usual fine. It will not - after all when did you last hear of a simple drink-drive attracting the maximum £5000 fine? Courts must impose fines that are commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, and within the ability of the offender to pay within a reasonable period. Really hefty fines are usually levied on businesses with deep pockets, often for Health and Safety or Trading Standards offences. In practice, our run-of-the-mill customer on JSA is unlikely ever to face a fine of more than about £250 , because deductions from benefits at £5 per week will take a year to pay off at least.

So in reality, not a lot will change. A whacking fine that is uncollectable simply makes a mockery of the system.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

No Surprise Then

Here is a story about interpreters

Depressing, and not surprising.

Amen to That

Tony Kerr is a former Chairman of the Sutton Bench. Last month he wrote to the Sunday Times' Camilla Cavendish about a piece she had written, and I think that his remarks deserve wider circulation.
I read with great interest your article in The Sunday Times(11/05/2014), lamenting the way in which government involves itself in sentencing.  What seems to have been forgotten is the overriding principle that the judiciary must be independent of the executive. The problems began when the previous government, attempting to achieve consistency, introduced sentencing guidelines. Certainly guidelines can be helpful to both judges and magistrates provided they are just that, guidelines that allow judicial discretion.  The problem now is that guidelines have become so prescriptive that any small deviation from them will result in a successful appeal. Discretion has all but disappeared with the executive now having political control over sentencing. I can assure you that both judges and magistrates do bitterly resent not having the power to sentence in a way they think appropriate.  All of this is compounded not only by early prisoner release but on top of that prison governors, at their discretion, can release  prisoners even earlier than the half way point. So some prisoners will only spend a little over a third of their sentence actually in prison. People simply do not understand why someone who has committed a serious crime and is sentenced to 10 years in prison can be out in just over 4 years. My biggest concern lies in the fact that people are rapidly losing faith in the judicial process as a whole. Law and order is largely consensual in this country.  When trust in the system breaks down only chaos will follow.
Tony Kerr JP

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Another One Bites The Dust

A recent wheeze from the MoJ's Department of Bright Ideas was a corker, even by their standards. Magistrates' appointments were to be limited to ten years in an effort to improve diversity on the bench. After ten years we were to be eased into some worthy but useless positions in the 'community', whatever that is.
It is a great strength of the magistracy that benches of three usually cover a range of experience, with a seasoned chairman and wingers who may just prefer not to chair, or who are new to the job (and thus more up-to-date in their training). If you took away all of the old sweats the quality of benches would be irreparably damaged.
The grapevine now tells me that the idea has been quietly shelved as too difficult. Unfortunately there will be similar stuff to come, as the MoJ seeks to reinforce its micro-managing control obsession.