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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Friday, 14 October 2016

LOW VALUE SHOP THEFT IS SUMMARY ONLY OR IT SHOULD BE?

Sometimes one is faced with a situation so obvious to the observer but apparently to nobody else that there is hesitation in even mentioning it.  Such was my reaction today on reading of a trial by jury for a supermarket theft of goods to the value of £20.79.  Although new guidelines came into operation since my retirement from the bench it was my opinion that in such a situation this offence should be  treated as a summary only offence in accordance with section 22A of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 where the maximum is 6 months’ custody.  However this is subject to one exemption; an adult defendant is to be given the opportunity to elect Crown Court trial; and if the defendant so elects; the offence is no longer summary and will be sent to the Crown Court (new section 22A(2))

With many offenders thinking in error [or persuaded so to do by their lawyer] that juries are less likely to convict than magistrates is this exemption not a waste of time?  Low value theft should not allow for election by a defendant. It should be summary only.....end of story.

3 comments:

  1. Agree but it seems the government was reluctant to interfere with election rights when it drew up legislation.
    Of course the offender faces a far higher maximum penalty and additional costs in the crown court but I accept most will not be in a position to pay those in any case.
    I don't think there is much if any evidence that solicitors are encouraging clients to elect crown court. The extra work required is not really justified by the additional payment. This case is intesting precisely because crown court trial was elected.

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  2. Many years ago, I chaired a court at which the defendant elected (CC Trial) for the theft of a toothbrush from Bodyshop. Of course we never discovered whether this proceeded but I assume that the CPS doesn't pursue these or similar and perhaps this is the reason for such elections rather than the relative chances of acquittal.

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  3. The evidence in this case was so strong that even the CPS didn't drop or bungle it. If Mr Xhuveli received informed advice, I'd expect that it would have been to plead guilty at the earliest opportunity. Lord knows what was going through his mind trying to deny it, let alone opting for trial by jury, unless it was the chance that enough of the twelve good men and true would fall for his sob story, or have indulged in five-finger discounting themselves.

    The sentence does look robust, but I doubt any of it will ever be served, so he didn't do too badly out of it.

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