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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Wednesday, 20 August 2014
LAW, EMOTION AND RESIGNATION
When sitting at the building where all matters except trials are conducted my colleagues and I generally enjoy the experience where we can be fully occupied with overnights, remands, first appearances, breaches and sentencing. With invariably a high number of cases at each such sitting I personally leave feeling a combination of being depressed when the detritus of humanity has to go through the criminal justice system instead of being diverted to institutions where their addictions can be treated, satisfied when judgement and/or insight has succeeded in isolating a previously unacknowledged significant fact, smug when correcting an all too bloated arrogant lawyer and disturbed when the application of the law seems unjust in a particular case.
The last case at just such a sitting left me disturbed. Cheating the Benefits Agency is taking tax payers money by fraud. Sometimes the offenders are beneath contempt in their efforts to receive what they don`t deserve but for a small minority pity is the emotion which can stem the hand of the sentencer. This country has seen an influx of immigrants over the last decade and some of the females in this group, especially those from Asia or Africa with little spoken English, are easy prey for unscrupulous men. The actual case in which we sentenced outside the Guidelines involved such a woman with two very young children and a so called husband who used her for his own ends. With their consent we used certain provisions; provisions that Probation would normally consider unavailable in the circumstances, to assist the offender. Some cases involving school non attendance also involve the application of laws which are perhaps insensitive to individual circumstances but if a J.P. cannot apply the law as it is and not as s/he would want it the answer is resignation.