Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.
Comments are usually moderated. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment. If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.
Friday, 11 October 2013
CURFEWS AND CHANGING THEIR TERMS. IT IS A DECISION FOR THE COURT; NOT THE POLICE
The imposition of a curfew with electronic monitoring is considered as a sentence involving loss of liberty. It is described in Sentencing Guidelines to be used, “where the punishment of the offender and/or the need to safeguard the public and prevent re-offending are the most important concerns”. However there is surprisingly little “guidance” on when and to what degree it should be imposed save for the statutory limits; a maximum of 16 hours daily and for not greater than 12 months duration. For sentencers the attractions of such a disposal are that it can be imposed without a pre sentence report or without an offender being legally represented and more significantly it can therefore be imposed immediately after a guilty plea or found guilty after trial. In the terms of CJSSS it is Criminal Justice Simple, Speedy and Summary.
Before such an imposition a court will always consider an offender`s lifestyle eg family obligations, employment requirements, type of residence and any other considerations brought to its attention including perhaps travel arrangements previously made and/or paid for insofar as their possibly having a bearing on the proposed terms. It is a matter of judgement of the court on the weight put upon any objections made. In our current position it is rare indeed for my colleagues and me to be allowed to use our judgement so proscribed are many decisions.
Similar judgements have to be made when an application is made in court for curfew conditions to be altered. I`m sure that most J.P.s have heard , as I have, many tales based on the old adage, “I need to go to a funeral. My grandma has died in Ireland, Poland, Lithuania….etc etc” or anywhere far enough away to require some days and nights away from the registered address. Holidays, pre and post booked, are another reason often cited to alter the curfew. And of course those imposed before and including Christmas and new year will bring pleas of once in a lifetime family re-unions etc.
Chris Grayling, the tough man at the Ministry after kindly old Kenneth Clarke, usually wastes no opportunity to flex his judicial authority. His comments subsequent to a decision at Truro Magistrates` Court in April should be noted as they are likely to be acted upon before 2015. Meantime the scenario has been enacted again at Bath Magistrates` Court. I will not comment on the decision; only those present heard all the argument but once again the police show their delight in condemning the court`s decision. This trend by police to forever criticise magistrates for their sentencing does nothing to enhance their image. It serves only to divert attention from the very real problems affecting them nationally. From proven corruption at the highest levels to actions not far from being politically motivated to allegations that misconduct is brushed under the carpet where possible, to continuing mistrust by ethnic minorities it behoves them to be a bit more introspective and to cease blaming magistrates for exercising their judgement. It would be a sad day if police controlled legal outcomes as perhaps some would wish them to be able to do.