Thursday, June 18, 2015

Old Joke Revisited

This story put me in mind of a case where I was sitting with  a colleague who has an irrepressible sense of humour.

The defendant was driving too fast in an uninsured car that he had no right to drive anyway, and when the inevitable crash occurred he was said to have demolished a length of garden wall along with a front gate. We reached a swift decision, which I announced in my best Pronouncement Voice.

My colleague leant across, and muttered "Did he want any further fences to be taken in consideration?"

I maintained my composure, with difficulty.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Double Standards

The law lays down strict rules about the treatment of children in court, be it as witnesses/victims or defendants. Although I do not sit as a Youth magistrate, I sometimes see a case that has to be sent off to what is flippantly called the Kiddy Court (usually by lawyers).

When this happens I have to make an order under the Children and Young Persons' Act that forbids the publication of anything that might serve to identify the young person concerned.

You will often read a press report that says 'we cannot name the young person involved for legal reasons', and that is as it should be.

But then I look at the current case of a foolish mother, blinded by what she sees as love for her son, who defies a High Court judge and flees with the boy. The court will make a decision on Monday, but today the boy's face is all over the tabloids. When a celebrity is photographed for the popular press, it is the practice to pixellate the faces of the children, but this lad has no such luck.

Just a couple of points, because the drift of the media's coverage is to sympathise with the mother:-

A High Court Judge will have made a decision based on the law, having regard to all the facts, and with the benefit of comprehensive reports from professionals about the case. We have only heard one side of the case, but the tabloid- reading public has been nudged into the conclusion that a mother's love trumps the considered judgment of the law (cue 'out-of-touch' jibes).

Of course, it's a good story, and good stories sell papers, but can we put this one to rest, and allow this little boy and this sadly warring couple a little peace and anonymity?

Friday, June 12, 2015


We were down to deal with a dozen or so sentencing cases last week, most of them with the help pf pre-sentence reports from Probation. Inevitably, a good proportion of the cases were drug-related; either possession (not supply, that usually goes off to Hizonner) or acquisitive crime committed to fund an expensive habit.

Somebody on £65 a week benefit or thereabouts cannot fund a £20-a-day Class A habit without thieving, and for the addict the most usual target is any self-service shop. High-value low-bulk stuff is the usual loot, so we are well used to seeing top-line razors, Duracell batteries, and the inevitable bottles of spirits.mentioned on the charge sheet.

One of our customers was a young woman of 23 or so, a serial drug user an shoplifter. We considered the case carefully, and could not avoid the conclusion that she would have to go to prison (not for the first time).

The report said that she had grown up in care, and that she had been with four different sets of foster parents. That alone would have added to her insecurity, and that is sadly a pointer to going off the rails.

So we did what we had to do, and gave her 12 weeks, of which she will serve 6. It won't do any good, of course.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015


If anyone here knows Andy Coulson, could they ask him if I could have his lottery numbers?

Of course a court's verdict must be final, as I accept, but Mr. C. must have a guardian angel somewhere.