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, 18 August 2014

REMANDS, ACQUITTALS AND £230 MILLION



It seems we are again making headlines.  This time magistrates` courts are accused by the Howard League of remanding too many defendants in custody prior to trial.  This story made the news in today`s Times behind its paywall.  The full report was much concerned with the cost estimated at £230 million when that related to those people later acquitted at trial or sentenced to non custodial sentences notwithstanding that the recently introduced  Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act contains provisions to address the unnecessary use of custodial remand.



Few of my colleagues would disagree with me in my opinion that remand on bail or in custody  is the most onerous decision that we have to make on the bench.  There are only three circumstances when an untried defendant can be remanded in custody there being no conditions which could satisfy the risk(s) of being remanded on bail:  a risk that further offences would be committed, in the interests of justice which is mainly concerned that there should be no interference with witnesses and lastly that the defendant would fail to appear for trial. The increased prosecution of those suspected of domestic abuse has possibly led to an increasing tendency to remand such people in custody.  Indeed the provisions of LASPO  have allowed for just such situations.



The figures quoted in the report cannot be understood unless the context of their inclusion is understood.  But of course the Howard League which is a single issue political lobby has no interest in serious debate if it gets in the way of pushing forward its agenda.


There is no denying that conditions in British prisons are and have for some years not been fit for purpose. Governments of all hues have used prison numbers as much as a political tool as they have for their prime purpose. The Howard League in emphasising the £230 million cost of what it considers unnecessary remands in custody is playing the only game this Justice Secretary wants to join; how to reduce costs.  In that it has probably succeeded in its aim.

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