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, 11 July 2016
SLOGANS OVER SENSE AT WHITEHALL
The issue of custody suspended has been a bone of contention since such powers were expanded dramatically in the magistrates` court. In 2014 there were over 30,000 disposals of custody suspended; more than ten times the numbers of a decade earlier. What is not in the public domain is the number of breaches of suspended sentences. According to the MOJ it indeed holds this information but its retrieval would exceed the financial limits imposed by the Freedom of Information Act. There is a similar inability to produce the outcomes of these breaches. Today the Telegraph has published details resulting from a parliamentary question by a member of the Justice Committee. The public has no access to the Police National Computer. Of course the Telegraph (and others) make play with the numbers which do not truly reflect the Minister`s answer. Personally, as far as I can recall, with few exceptions I generally sought activation after two breaches although my colleagues did not always concur and sometimes the probation service were also reluctant to argue that position.
It is headlines which are taken as information by most of the population not parliamentary answers. If the MOJ wished to have the common man (or woman) on its side it would gladly collate the figures refused in an FOI request as above and consider the expense a small price to pay to ensure that the public had faith that the justice system was doing its best to ensure that repeat offending had consequences and that society could be certain that government spokesmen repeating the mantra of public protection were not just paying lip service to a political slogan. The current policy simply doesn`t seem to make sense. But then "sense" does not seem a priority for many in Whitehall.