Monday, April 16, 2007

Mirror, Mirror

A few weeks ago we had finished a trial, and we were asked to help out the remand court that was struggling with overnight custody cases, many of them involving lengthy bail applications. While our CPS prosecutor had a read through some files we dealt with a young man who had been arrested on a warrant for breaching his community order. The Probation prosecutor told us that the breaches of more or less all of the conditions of his order (and half-hearted compliance with the rest) meant that he was unsuitable for it, so would we please revoke the order and re-sentence him. She suggested tentatively that a curfew order might fit the bill. Our suspicions aroused, my colleagues and I asked for full details of the original offence, and we discovered that our man had been convicted of an unprovoked and drink-fuelled assault on a stranger late one night. Injuries were mercifully light, amounting to no more than a few bruises, but there were hints of racial motivation in the background. We firmly squashed any suggestion of a curfew, and informed our man that we were of a mind to impose a custodial sentence since he had shown himself unable or unwilling to comply with a community order. A further report was required and we arranged for it two days later; we remanded him in custody to be sure that it was done. I then lost touch with the case but it will have gone one of two ways:-either a major attitude adjustment once he shaped up to reality, with an increased community order, or a custodial, immediate or suspended. My money is on four months suspended, plus unpaid work plus supervision.
The next matter in was a CPS one, and we were required to sentence a rather unusual case about which I can't say too much for the usual reasons. This chap's solicitor addressed us on the lines of "I realise reports are inevitable, but I hope to persuade you not to send my client up to the Crown Court". After a quick heads-together with my colleagues I asked the solicitor to address us on other types of disposal: the penny dropped immediately, and her submissions convinced us that a hefty fine would be just as well as expedient. We took about £700 off him with costs (payable within 7 days) and I told him that his previous good character (he was 32) and early pleas had allowed us to drop down-tariff to a fine, but that the dishonesty-related conviction he now had would not improve his CV.
So we went well up-tariff on one, and well down-tariff on another. I think we were right in both cases, and that's how the system is supposed to work.

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