Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A Few Basics

All we can do while riots are still going on is to support those who are tackling the trouble on the ground, and to wish them well. The criminal justice phase will begin shortly. I am not commenting on the system but here are some of the issues:

Those arrested have to be taken to a police station and booked in in the usual manner, where the custody sergeant has to authorise their detention. That has the effect of taking one or more officers off the street, and if the cells are full, as I imagine they are, detainees have to be shipped out, requiring more resources.

Charges will be decided by the CPS, and the confusion and chaos of a riot will make it exceptionally difficult to gather evidence of the necessary quality for a conviction.

CCTV is less help than the public commonly suppose, particularly in view of the well-known Turnbull guidelines on ID evidence.

Most of the likely charges will be either-way, such as burglary, theft, robbery, affray, criminal damage (this has to be above £5000 to make the offence e/w, but setting light to a car or building will soon get you past that threshold). The CPS is likely to rely on 'joint enterprise' in many cases, which should provide plenty of work for lawyers.

The early batch of people dealt with in court were reported on by the BBC today who said that there were many guilty pleas, but that most were committed to the Crown Court for sentence.

Crown courts in London are currently under pressure to get through their work. If there are lots of not-guilty pleas the system may take a year or more to get through the cases.

And a comment from me:- These are dreadful and outrageous incidents that need to be dealt with under the law, but nobody can justify cutting corners. Cases that cause outrage must be dealt with meticulously, however slow and frustrating that may appear to be. This is Britain - we have seen this sort of thing before and we shall see it again, and the rule of law is too precious to be bent in a moment's indignation.

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