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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Friday, 27 November 2015

CURFEWS AND PMQs


It is rare for a decision in a magistrates` court to be the subject of a question to the prime minister during PMQs  but that was the case earlier this week.  Cases such as this occur daily.  

On 11/10/2015 on the topic of curfews  I posted, "The imposition of a curfew with electronic monitoring is considered as a sentence involving loss of liberty. It is described in Sentencing Guidelines to be used, “where the punishment of the offender and/or the need to safeguard the public and prevent re-offending are the most important concerns”. However there is surprisingly little “guidance” on when and to what degree it should be imposed save for the statutory limits; a maximum of 16 hours daily and for not greater than 12 months duration. For sentencers the attractions of such a disposal are that it can be imposed without a pre sentence report or without an offender being legally represented and more significantly it can therefore be imposed immediately after a guilty plea or found guilty after trial. In the terms of CJSSS it is Criminal Justice Simple, Speedy and Summary.



Before such an imposition a court will always consider an offender`s lifestyle eg family obligations, employment requirements, type of residence and any other considerations brought to its attention including perhaps travel arrangements previously made and/or paid for insofar as their possibly having a bearing on the proposed terms. It is a matter of judgement of the court on the weight put upon any objections made. In our current position it is rare indeed for my colleagues and me to be allowed to use our judgement so proscribed are many decisions.


Similar judgements have to be made when an application is made in court for curfew conditions to be altered. I`m sure that most J.P.s have heard , as I have, many tales based on the old adage, “I need to go to a funeral. My grandma has died in Ireland, Poland, Lithuania….etc etc” or anywhere far enough away to require some days and nights away from the registered address. Holidays, pre and post booked, are another reason often cited to alter the curfew. And of course those imposed before and including Christmas and new year will bring pleas of once in a lifetime family re-unions etc.
"  On 5/11/2015 I followed up on the topic of varying a curfew.



This type of decision often leaves an open goal for lazy reporters and sub editors to score easy headlines and in this case  for an MP to have thirty seconds on PMQs.  But there is an underlying concern that benches are too easily swayed by smooth talking lawyers.  There is no "loophole" in the law.  To remove the option of a variation in a curfew is akin to removing a right of appeal against sentence. The problem as is often the case in such matters is the application of such a right and the ability of J.P.s to deal logically and with dispassion on all that comes before them. 

4 comments:

  1. I think your view of curfew is a little too simplistic - it is not something that can sentenced immediately after a guilty plea or trial, as you suggest, as a Curfew is a Community Order requirement, and Probation then needs time to determine whether or not the curfew premises are suitable (eg does the householder give permission?) before the order can be made. That can sometimes take several days, unless the offender is already known to Probation and his/her circumstances and lifestyle are known.

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    1. I have to disagree. A curfew order can be made iimmediately after conviction and without reference to Probation. In my previous experience the court requested a police officer to determine that the address exists and appears suitable, the order is made and the defendant is warned to be at the address in plenty of time for the contractor to fit the tag. All sown up within an hour or two!

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    2. Mr Jake Berry MP evidently thinks that the Prime Minister can issue guidance to magistrates!!

      We don't have all of the facts and we haven't heard the representation made to the bench, but I have to say that if the report is taken at face value then it does seem a strange decision. If there is no more to the story than what we read then I wouldn't have a second's hesitation in throwing out the application.

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  2. It is right not to comment on the decision without knowing the facts, but one wonders if the effect of his offending was known to the bench dealing with the app application. The CPS is in such disarray these days.

    Biscuit.

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