Sunday, March 07, 2010

News In Brief

* Many court staff will be on strike tomorrow and Tuesday. Magistrates who are due to sit have been asked to turn up anyway, although there may be no work for some of them.

* The Magistrates' Association is discussing retirement age (currently 70) on the basis that many people still have all their marbles at that age, and should be allowed to carry on subject to annual appraisal. It will not happen.

* There is a backlog of Family Court work and posters have appeared in London courthouses asking for volunteers for the Family panel. The workload in Family has shot up following well-publicised cases of child abuse and neglect.

* There are still concerns that the CPS are under-charging cases, in order to get a more certain conviction or even a guilty plea. Typical examples are an obvious ABH charged as a Common Assault, thus preventing election for jury trial, and those caught with fairly large amounts of cannabis as well as scales and plastic bags being charged with simple possession rather than With Intent to Supply.

* Associate Prosecutors (not qualified solicitors or barristers) are to be selected and trained to carry out a greater range of prosecutions, such as summary magistrates' trials (non-imprisonable only) Special Reasons hearings, and others. This is another nail in the coffin of the independent Bar. APs will be regulated in future by the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX).

* The Anonymous Prosecutor deals with the cost implications here.

* When imposing a fine the court has to assess the Relevant Weekly Income (RWI). Someone on benefit is deemed to have RWI of £100, and someone who does not provide full information is assessed at £350 RWI. A multi-millionaire was recently sentenced in a London court and fined £2,000 which was far less, as a proportion of his income, than £100 would be to someone on Jobseekers.

* A woman who attended court to have a fine reassessed (not having attended the first hearing) heard that the fine was being reduced from £350 to £100 and asked the bench "Is that the best you can do?"

* The youngest current member of my Bench is 26, and very good.

* There is, for some reason, a poll on the MA members' site asking if: I would prefer to be called a community justice rather than a magistrate
I won't disclose the result, but you can probably guess. That 'C' word always makes me suspect that the hand of the dreaded Louise Casey is involved.

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