Friday, August 14, 2009

Breach Loaded

Every week or two we lay on a Breach Court to deal with people who have failed to carry out their community orders as instructed. These days breaches are mostly brought back to court in just a few weeks, so we see quite a few of them. Probation prosecute, and usually make a recommendation to the court, although the decision is entirely up to the bench. Two unacceptable failures, such as failing to turn up to an appointment, will bring on breach proceedings.
For a first or minor breach we will make the order more onerous, such as by adding on hours of unpaid work. For more serious breaches we may be invited to revoke the order and then re-sentence for the original offence. In the case of a high level order the new sentence might well be a custodial one. If the order has been part-completed it is reasonable to take account of what has been done, but for the real no-hopers prison may be inevitable.
Occasionally we are asked to revoke an order for good progress, and it can be gratifying to give the offender a pat on the back and send him on his way. Very occasionally we come across a case where we do not think it appropriate to bump up the sentence; unfortunately the law says that we must, so the invaluable Ways and Means Act is invoked, and we impose some milk-and-water requirement such as a one month's residence condition. Boxes ticked, job done.

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