Thursday, April 13, 2017

Back to the Ranch

In the six months since my retirement from the bench I have not had cause to visit the courthouse. This week, however, I volunteered to show some local people around the building, and I was agreeably surprised to find that I still remembered the pass code for the car park. Our visitors were very interested and full of questions, which reminded me of my very early days as a JP when I found out just how little people knew about the court and its workings. That was a prime reason for my starting a blog a decade ago.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

New(ish) Stuff

A friend recently asked me to cast an eye over a summons she has received for a speeding offence. She was going too fast for a speed awareness course or a fixed penalty, and was duly reported. She is going through the Single Justice Procedure, which is a new one on me, but I expect that it consists of one JP sitting alone with a clerk, dealing with the simpler cases. In days gone by I used to sit alone on Saturdays when I could usually expect about ten or fifteen cases, mostly remands or discharges. My maximum power was a penalty of one pound or one day's imprisonment, which could fill the bill for he usual overnight drunks and nuisances. The real work was deciding on bail, and that is a serious matter when you are on your own.
I shall be interested to see how the new procedure works in practice; no doubt my one-time colleagues will be able to fill me in.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Dog Days

There was a news item this week about the sentencing of some people who organised dog fights, with large sums wagered on the result. I saw one such case a few years ago, and it needed a strong stomach to look at the evidence. The fight took place in an abandoned farm building and at the end the whitewashed walls were heavily bloodstained. We simply remanded the two defendants, and my colleagues sentenced them a few weeks later after reports were prepared. The aggravation was considerable; organised for money, dogs had to be destroyed, and so on so. They received the maximum six months each and were banned from keeping animals for ten years. In this latest case numerous social-media comments have complained that the six month sentence was not enough, but as usual that raises the question of just how long is enough? All sentences have to fit into the scale somewhere; for example can it ever be right to impose a higher penalty for cruelty to animals than to people?

Here's the Guideline:-

http://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/offences/item/animal-cruelty/