Friday, October 29, 2010

Pragmatism Can Pay

We have had a few recent comments on defendants who spend more time on remand than they eventually receive as a sentence (not to mention those acquitted and freed after many months of incarceration). A defence brief with whom I am on drinking terms tells me that when people turn up at a UK port having disposed of their passports and ID before claiming asylum they will often be charged with a 'Section 2' passport offence. The higher courts' guidance to magistrates is imprisonment of 2-5 months, or in reality two to ten weeks inside. As unidentified foreign nationals these people are unlikely to be granted bail so anything other than a swift guilty plea is likely to result in a pre-trial delay that will exceed the real likely sentence. If Crown Court trial is chosen, the delay could stretch to three months or more. So a pragmatic solicitor will usually advise his client to plead, even if there might be a possible defence in the background. Apparently these cases have tailed off recently due to a Human Rights decision. They always struck me as a bit pointless anyway. If you are prepared to uproot from your home friends and family and travel halfway round the world to an uncertain future in the UK, a few weeks in prison are unlikely to be a deterrent.

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