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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Sunday, 22 June 2014


I hadn`t intended to post today but reading of the probation service`s trials and tribulations on other sites I feel that somewhere real criticisms of that service have been lost in a certain amount of self pity. Some of the first training courses I attended as a J.P. were centred around “structured decision making”. Indeed that general mantra has devolved into an almost tick box formulaic exercise under the Sentencing Guidelines. A key test of whether an offender should be subjected to a custodial sentence is whether the offence is so serious that only custody is appropriate. Assuming that the answer is in the affirmative the next question the sentencer must ask itself whether bench or judge is whether or not there are circumstances that can allow the sentence to be suspended. All too often pre sentence reports when concluding on a recommended disposal will canvass a community order or “if the bench does not agree then a suspended sentence order with unpaid work etc etc”. In my opinion this demonstrates the woolly thinking of so many of these writers. If they are aware that a custodial disposal decision must be made before any consideration can be given to its suspension a PSR writer should say so: i.e. custody but here are the reasons to suspend the sentence. If such personnel are unaware of the structure by which we sentence then they ought to be made aware and quick.

I have said as much in open court many times but it seems like water off the proverbial back of a duck.


  1. I agree that the risk of custody should always be acknowledged. And then arguments about suspended or community sentences can be made. Even arguments for fines and conditional discharges come to that,

  2. The situation may be made worse by the uncertainty over 'all option' reports and the risks to tying the sentencing benches hands. If we can't tell the Probation Officer whether the custody threshold has been passed then it's rather difficult!