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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Thursday, 14 January 2016
SENTENCING IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST? YOU MUST BE KIDDING!
The above were the comments of a bench chairman at Kirklees Magistrates` Court when sentencing a drink driver with a breath reading of 164 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. This was more than four-and-a-half times over the legal limit of 35 microgrammes. The offender was sentenced to 250 hours of unpaid work as a direct alternative to custody. He was also banned from driving for three years and must pay £85 costs and £60 victim surcharge. The full report in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner can be read here.
What does this simple episode tell us about the lay magistracy? Firstly the guidelines for such an offender, even a first time offender, indicate a starting point of 12 weeks custody with a range of a high level community sentence to 26 weeks custody. The report gives a brief account of the mitigation offered. It seems completely ridiculous that a custodial sentence was bypassed and even more so that it was not imposed as a sentence of custody suspended. The bench has forgotten or overlooked its public protection responsibility. It seems the offender is a possible victim. He must not have action against him which would have a "detrimental impact on your recovery."” as quoted by the chairman.
It is exactly this sort of we are responsible for the social effects of sentencing thinking that lowers respect for the lay magistracy with the wider public. It is a scandal!