Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Cheap Cigs and ASBOs

I am always grateful to those who take the time to add comments to the blog, preventing it from being a one-man band. I also get quite a few e-mails and one I received a few days ago included the following:-

Around these parts, Islington, both politicians and police are in a state of rebellion about your colleagues at Highbury Magistrates’ Court who just will not grant Asbos. Indeed, the leader of the council is in the local rag this week urging magistrates to get involved in combating crime. It's coded criticism after a recent police application to ASBO rogue contraband cigarette sellers was thrown out. While the magistrates' insistence on proof "beyond reasonable doubt" is laudable, this translates to the creation of gangs of virtually untouchable youth. This has been my particular point of experience and concern for the best part of three years.

At my request the writer was kind enough to send me a copy of a report in the local paper, headlined “Court urged to join drive to clear illegal fag sellers”
In the report Superintendent Mark Terry and Councillor Steve Hitchins are quoted as being frustrated by the lack of ‘partnership’ shown by the courts. Magistrates and the Lord Chancellor are to be invited to visit the area.

With respect gentlemen, you are betraying a total lack of understanding of what an independent judiciary means. Magistrates and District Judges consider impartially evidence that is put before them. It is no part of their job to be in partnership with anyone. If prosecuting authorities or individuals put forward a good case within the law the court will make an appropriate finding. What the court is not there to do is to cuddle up to the police and the council, and rubber-stamp ASBOs on demand. If the cigarette sellers are breaking the law, and I suspect that they might be, they should be arrested and brought before the court using existing laws. Perhaps the council could orchestrate a consumer boycott of the half-price cigarettes on sale. I wonder how they would get on?

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