Thursday, January 02, 2014

Happy New Year - For Some, Anyway

I arrived at court to find four Serco vans in the yard, with a fifth pulling in behind me. Fortunately they weren't all full, but we still had seventeen prisoners to deal with in one courtroom. The Prosecutor was one of the best ones who comes to our court, so I was pretty confident that we would get the job done by lunchtime.
The paperwork was all in order, but as usual we had to drink an extra cup of coffee while the two duty solicitors took instructions from their clients and gave appropriate advice before they came up the steel staircase. There were a few difficult ones, in particular a man in his forties who was either drunk or drugged, and who tried to tell us that we had got the law quite wrong, and by the way could we make an injunction against his landlord for illegally refusing to let him back into his rented bedsit. Another man refused to see a solicitor at all, and I had him confirm the fact in open court, before he suddenly changed his mind, so we sent him back downstairs. While he was down there he changed his mind yet again. There were a couple of breaches of bail (that is not an offence per se, but it allows the question of bail to be revisited, which quite often results in its being revoked or conditions made more onerous).
We saw, as we often do, the salutary effect that a night or two in the cells can have. One man had breached a bail condition not to contact his estranged wife, and been arrested as a result. We re-bailed him on the same conditions but I gave him a stern reminder that if this happened again he could wait for his trial date in Wormwood Scrubs. He firmly shook his head: " No sir, I have had enough.". We believed him, so he is out now, hopefully wiser than before. 


  1. Do you not mean that breaching bail is not 'necessarily' an offence in itself?

    Sometimes of course it can be, and in theory, deserving of custody.

  2. Breach of a condition of bail is not an offence per se, but a failure to answer bail( section 6(1) or (2)) may be if there is no reasonable excuse for not attending. Those unlucky enough to be charged, usually or should be, off to chokey or at least put on a curfew for the offence and more likely than not remanded I/c in the interim

  3. I hope he had contacted her in the real sense and not just in the CPS sense. In their world if she rings him and he answers he has contacted her. I once asked a prosecutor how that could be right if she had withheld her number and got the answer "He ought not to answer his mobile, Sir, he should let calls go to voicemail so he can filter them".

    We did not agree.

  4. Some JP's and indeed some CPS lawyers forget the 24hr rule. If a person is arrested for breach of a bail condition (or suspected breach) they must be brought before a JP within 24hrs. I remember an interesting case of many years ago. I sat in a northern court. A person was arrested for breach of bail conditions in London the day previous to our sitting. Our court had granted bail. We were advised by the clerk of the return of the person by train accompanied by an officer. As we sat through the morning the time ticked away. We were advised of a signal problem at Rugby causing a delay, then another delay at Stafford. Finally with about 5 mins to spare he arrived in court. After listening to his story, which was a sob story to melt the hardest heart, we rebailed him on the same conditions and told him to stay close to home in future.

  5. If a Fail to Surrender charge is put, it ought to be dealt with on the day, usually by a fine that might or might not be deemed served. I always remind the defendant that now his PNC record includes a failure to surrender he is likely to be denied police bail in future and court bail may also be withheld.

  6. In fairness to the drink/drugged man, if the Landlord is refusing to let him into his bedsit without a Court Repossession Order, then it is surely an illegal eviction, which of course is a Criminal Offence and can carry a Prison Sentence.

    It's just that the Magistrate your facing is not the chap at the time to be complaining to, he should pop off down the Police Station and inform local authority.

    Given all the legislation we have protecting Tenants, and standards of living, a couple of tv programmes a while back were truly shocking, the amount of Rogue Landlords renting uninhabitable properties, abusing the tenants in all sorts of ways, and the illegal evictions is astonishing. Even a Policeman was prosecuted for doing an illegal eviction a while back. (it was a property he owned, he didnt turn up and help a Landlord)


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