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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Monday, 16 December 2013


It is hardly surprising that stories orientated around the legal profession and individuals` encounters with the forces of law `n order have been recounted for centuries.  The infinite variety of  the human condition leaves no possibility beyond imagination.  And so  Tariq Al Habtoor encountered Judge Nigel Van Der Bijl, Hon. Recorder of the City of Canterbury.

The apparently spoiled son of a billionaire riled against a 120 hours unpaid work requirement imposed by local magistrates for theft by dog-napping.  Having had a change of heart after having given his dog away he attempted to steal it back after its new owner refused a payment of   £1,500 to return it.  As a result of his appeal at the crown court where HH Judge Van Der Bijl was sitting he was sentenced to six months custodial suspended for two years.  From the report there was no requirement to undertake any community service. With the usual caveat that local newspaper don`t always tell the whole story three observations on the sentence come to mind………………..

1.      did six months seem appropriate in the light of the bench`s original sentence?
2.      was the suspension of the sentence logical?
3.      to this offender did the sentence not appear to be less onerous than the original?

Judge Van Der Brijl has some form on idiosyncratic sentencing. Whatever opinions are on this matter long might that continue.  Too often sentencing is a procedure conducted by  numbers and/or box ticking.

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