Having blogged about the Court of Appeal's stern new guidelines on knife crime, I was recently faced with a simple case of possession of a lock knife by a man of 22. Probation recommended a community penalty, and six weeks ago he might well have got one, but inside he went for six weeks; long enough to make the point but not long enough to allow him to acclimatise in prison. We then dealt with a Proceeds of Crime Act case that raised some interesting points of law and taught me a bit about drug dealing. Unfortunately the really interesting bits are too hot to blog about, at least for some time.
Not for the first time we saw a criminal prosecution (under the Fraud Act 2006) for making a false statement to obtain car insurance - in this case non-disclosure of a conviction. Because the policy was ipso facto void, the driver was also charged with having no insurance. That little lie has cost him a fine, a driving ban, a blacklisting by the insurance industry, and a conviction for fraud to add to his CV.
We had to decide on bail in a Domestic Violence case. If we grant bail it is good practice to impose conditions of non-contact, and to order geographical separation to prevent further offences, but sometimes, as here, the victim has made a withdrawal statement and wants her husband home. CPS policy will be to witness summons the victim and go ahead, but the chance of a conviction will be pretty low, so what do we do? It can't be a good idea to allow victim and offender to sleep in the same bed, but they say they have made up, and they need to make a start on rebuilding their relationship. There is no right answer to this one, and it is a matter for the judgment and experience of the bench. Hundreds of these decisions come before magistrates every week, and of course a proportion of them go wrong, but as I have often said, every bail decision is a calculated risk, within the framework of the Bail Act. That doesn't stop the press pillorying the magistrates if something nasty does happen.
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