Friday, November 15, 2013

De Minimis (2)

One or two commenters have been scathing about my suggestion that some cases are too small to bother a court with. I am afraid that if they realised the vast number of cases that are NFA (no further action) at the police station, or not proceeded with by the CPS, or dropped at various stages through the court process they might be very surprised and shocked. Of course any crime is bad for society and bad for the victim but we have to keep a sense of proportion. The proportion of offences that are charged or summonsed is tiny.
There is also cost to consider. One lesson from the post-crash years is that desirable things are often not done because the cost cannot be justified in the greater scheme of things. The case I mentioned probably cost a good £1000 all in, and that is before the ongoing cost of keeping an eye on our two heroes in the future. It's an imperfect world down here, and we shall have to see how things pan out in the next.


  1. I missed the posts and comments and I've just had a look back.

    Whilst I appreciate the financial considerations, if a law is not enforced then it is in some sense something you are permitted to do. That means the people can feel safe in the knowledge that they can commit these small scale crimes, which actually do (I am told) affect peoples lives in negative ways.

    It's a little hard to know exactly what cases you are referring to but I find it worrying. Perhaps there is another way where people could feel some sort of justice is done but the costs are still very low (actually, I thought that was the point of a magistrates court)

    1. Hear, hear!

      An additional point is that if such crime becomes "permitted" then victims may resort to direct action. Do we really want, say, a shedload (sic) of mantraps in sheds?

  2. Perhaps we should be looking at giving police back their prosecuting powers for very minor crimes the arresting police constable could prosecute and the CPS need not be bothered. The Pc would have the facts at his fingertips and would be both witness and accuser and since the defs can't afford legal representation any more we would be back to the original adversarial system with no middle men. Eg:

    Cop: "He did it."
    Def: "No I didn't."
    Mag: "Guilty! Off with his head."

  3. Never mind what the cops and the CPS do. The bench was presented with a case of theft and convicted. So sentence proportionately.

    1. Which is what we did, within the guidelines. Where's the problem?

    2. Wasn't criticising.

  4. You have been discussing the case of criminals who are dependent on benefits, and have no other means or income, and so no prospect of paying costs on any reasonable timescale.

    Do you have the power to order convicted criminals such as our two intrepid shed burglars to perform some kind of community service labour in lieu of costs?

  5. Bystander,

    1. Reasonable to assume as it was a garden shed, someone's home, then. Not a storage shed on commercial premises. Fear factor, person's home.

    2. I suspect from the tone of the article no minor.

    3. You admit has previous. You cannot elaborate on what you mean by significant, although I suspect we'd disagree.


  6. I would agree with the principle that all crimes, however piffling, should be prosecuted and tried. However, we live in a very imperfect world, one where relatively serious crimes are generally ignored and relatively minor crimes seem to attract greater attention than their monetary or emotional worth.

    For example, if current statistics on under age sex are to be believed, then more than half of the population have committed serious sexual offences, offences that could, if they were detected, tried and found guilty, result in the offenders receiving fairly serious penalties and being placed on the sex offenders register. It so happens that, as a society, we have chosen to ignore the vast majority of these offences and so they rarely come to the attention of the courts. Arguably this is a sensible decision, as pulling more than half of the teenage population under 16 before the courts would stress the system beyond breaking point, and achieve no benefit to society.

    However, when it comes to theft, and particularly in the first case mentioned that sparked this debate, then I think we do have to draw a line and prosecute when it is clear that the offence was, as in this case, individuals who deliberately set out to steal whatever they could find, irrespective of value. The fact that in this case they were caught red-handed, the goods were recovered and turned out to be of only minor value, has nothing to do with the way the offenders should be treated.

    They could very easily have set out on this same adventure, stolen goods worth many thousands of pounds and not been caught. Treating them leniently because they were relatively lucky, or worse still, deciding not to prosecute at all because the goods were recovered and the offenders had no significant previous, seems a wholly wrong thing to do.

  7. Have you not missed the point? It may be that the legal advice should have been to plead guilty given the almost inevitable assumption the bench would make from the available evidence. However having chosen NOT to plead guilty the CPS have a responsibility to pursue the case, to do otherwise would invite defence lawyers to draw the conclusion that the CPS will not pursue trivial / low value cases, giving the lawyers more reason to put the crown to the test.


Posts are pre-moderated. Please bear with us if this takes a little time, but the number of bores and obsessives was getting out of hand, as were the fake comments advertising rubbish.