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.
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Thursday, 21 November 2013
MUSINGS ON THURSDAY
We are all aware of the situation when we contract some disease or illness which requires treatment and rehabilitation over a relatively short period when the problem can be described as acute. However on the scale of discomfort a “permanent” itch, ache or irritation can be equally debilitating. And so it is here today. I am referring to four examples of legal issues which I have found to be a disturbance to my equilibrium: Itch, ache or irritation?.....you can judge.
Most offenders are punished by the imposition of a financial penalty. As posted on the Ministry of Justice`s website the numbers are:-
“Fines are the most common sentence passed at court, accounting for around two-thirds of all sentences handed out by the criminal courts (66.5 per cent in the 12 months ending September 2012). The fine rate is consistent with that seen in the same period for the previous year, and has declined from a peak of 70.3 per cent in the 12 months ending September 2004. The decline has been due to a decline in prosecutions and subsequent conviction for summary motoring offences - the offence type for which fines are most commonly given. The latest figure of 816,600 fines represents a decrease of 5. 2 per cent compared to the 12 months ending September 2011, and the lowest number of fines handed out over the last 11 years.”
What an example of the spin doctor`s art of obfuscation by omission. The total amount of unpaid fines is estimated at £2 billion and rising. In addition over £130 million annually is written off because the state cannot find or squeeze the cash from offenders. Perhaps the Secretary of State instead of pursuing his rehabilitation of offenders by results policy with the decimation of the probation service as a by product or playing hardball with G4S and SERCO he would be more profitably employed in root and branch investigation of the whole process of fines from imposition to collection or otherwise as the case may be.
The ASBO is IMHO a nasty concept; a civil penalty followed by criminal proceedings if breached. It is being consigned to legal history only to be replaced by an even nastier process; the IPNA....injunction to prevent nuisance. Its proponents state that it will be an effective deterrent against ,eg, begging gangs. But just for a moment consider what other aspects of our daily experiences could thus be so construed. The chimes of an ice cream van once or twice daily could be “annoying” for some. A pavement evangelist who is convinced that beans are a sure way to hellfire and damnation could be annoyance. High spirited children, of which I was once one, being children but perhaps rather noisily on a summer`s evening in a middle class estate could conceivably fall foul of a couple of miserable householders. Such is the way our laws are progressing. Easy targets make for easy statistics of success. And a person who should know is the Chief Constable of Derbyshire amongst others.
Paul Ford, the Secretary of Police Federation National Detective Forum, said: “It would help if politicians would stop using crime statistics as the be all and end all of the total success of policing and public safety. It’s misleading. It helps no one. “You can say that crime has gone down one week but not mention that crime went up the two weeks before.”
Former Metropolitan Police detective chief superintendent Peter Barron said the service had to stop having an aversion to crime rates increasing. He added: “It needs to be seen as enhancing the intelligence picture. If a crime isn’t counted, it’s missed completely.” Mr Jenkin ( Chairman of the Public Administration Committee) even apologised to the officers “on behalf of all politicians of all parties”, who he said had “created this atmosphere where targets must be achieved”.
I have blogged in the past that this country is coming to resemble a banana republic of 1970s South America. Public officials with no ability, corruption at high levels in public service, self serving oversight bodies and political policies offered for partisan interests with national betterment a distant second requirement seem to be de rigueur.
« Je conduis habituellement à droite donc ma culpabilité dans cette affaire de conduite imprudente est moindre. » could have been the words of Alexis Fleury of Orleans in the Appeal Court earlier this month. Or in English..........“I usually drive on the right so my culpability in this matter of careless driving is lessened”. And their Lordships agreed with him. Whilst the principle and logic of the decision is immediately comprehended where does it end? If I were a resident of Outer Eurasia where use of a mobile phone whilst driving is not prohibited would that lesson my culpability using one on the Outer Circle? Readers will have their own analogies in mind without much effort.