Posts Tagged ‘ government ’


Crouching Tiger, Sauntering Dragon

Written by admin
December 19th, 2018

Inevitable comparisons have to be drawn between the recent departures from high office of the Sports Minister, Tracy Crouch and the former DPP, Alison Saunders.

Alison Saunders maintained both publicly and in meetings with members of the Bar, the judiciary and solicitors that the prosecution service benefited from adequate funding throughout her time as DPP. She talked about structural reform and organisational re-organisation, but never challenged her Alistrol masters and mistresses. Only after her final salary cheque was in the bank and her pension was safe for all time, did she dare to say what everyone else had been saying for the last five years.

Tracey Crouch however gave up a well-paid government job and returned to the back benches as soon as it became apparent that fixed odds betting terminals were to remain the scourge of high street betting shops until October 1919.

The comments of both will of course have brought to the attention of the public and the government the issues surrounding both Crown Prosecution Service funding and revenue to be derived from gambling machines. Nevertheless, the personal integratory and long and short term respect for Tracey Crouch must be at an insurmountable high, while Alison Saunders is left wondering whether those who have argued for her to receive no honours list award will have their way.

For those of us in the professions, for victims of crime, for court users, for witnesses and for the sake of the whole judicial process, we can only hope that Max Hill is not as tongue-tied as his predecessor and if necessary will press the Tracey Crouch nuclear button.

MOJ budgets aren’t even for Christmas!

Written by admin
December 1st, 2018

Recent calculations have shown that the MOJ’s annual budget amounted to less than four days’ worth or four 365th’s of the DWP’s government allowance.

If the two departments start spending their annual budgets at midnight on New Year’s Eve at an equal rate, the MOJ will be spent up two days before the twelfth night arrives.

There can be no doubting that both departments have vital jobs to play. There can be no doubting that the call on the DWP is a much stronger one than on the MOJ, but these exciting statistics show just how small that Ministry of Justice budget really is.

Enough money to allow an equal spend for the length of your average Premiership football match would be enough to allow for an enormous improvement in the working conditions of all within the justice system.

An increase in the MOJ budget to allow an equal spend for time equivalent to one episode of Prime Suspect would be enough to ensure the proper and timely investigation of all cases presented to the Crown Prosecution Service in a twelve month period.

An increase in the MOJ budget sufficient to allow Nick Grimshaw to play three songs on his afternoon show would be enough to see a dramatic percentage increase in the legal aid budget which would allow for recruitment and retention of staff and a sensible working week for all defence lawyers.

As we approach the time for drawing up our Christmas lists for Santa, are any of the above really too much to ask for?

Who needs reasonableness!

Written by admin
November 22nd, 2018

We all know that knife crime is on the rise. Not to the levels of Victorian times, not to the levels of 1993, when criminal offences across the board were at their highest. In fact, knife crime is rising towards the levels experienced in 2010 and 2011.

It is obvious that the government wants to “do something”. Legislation imposing vaguely mandatory sentences on those convicted of carrying bladed articles or offensive weapons for a second time has been a future of the sentencing process for many years.

Not satisfied with this removal of discretion from the judiciary, the government now wishes to attack a different part of the criminal justice process.

Certainly, out of nowhere, there are calls for a re-evaluation of the old “stop and search” powers. This much malign and often inflammatory procedure has, in recent years, been kept in check by the requirement for police officers to have a “reasonable suspicion” before stopping or searching an individual. A number of members of the government are now suggesting that the requirement for a “reasonable suspicion” be removed.

Any action that can be carried out unreasonably, or without the use of reason, is obviously likely to lead to concerns and difficulties. Imagine that someone allegedly acting in “self-defence” did not have to show that they had acted “reasonably” just that they had acted in self-defence. What sort of mayhem might ensue?

Where the power to be used “unreasonably” is a coercive power, as in the case of stop and search, the perils for us all are enormous. Those of us who remember the Bristol riots around the Black and White Café, the Brixton riots of the early 1980’s and the Toxteth riot of similar vintage remember just how much violence and disorder ensued from the hatred and loathing that had built up after the misuse of “stop and search” powers.

If widespread civil disorder and a break down in the relationship between the police and the public are the price to be paid for this cack-handed attack on knife crime, it may be felt that the account would soon become unbalanced.

Lock ups and Lock outs

Written by admin
November 19th, 2018

In a desperate attempt to save Her Majesty’s government a few extra ill-gotten pounds, the MOJ are now consulting on closing the remand courts in Doncaster, Barnsley, Beverly and Grimsby. The only remand courts in South Yorkshire and to the whole of Humberside, would be in Sheffield and Hull.

On the face of it, the considerable expense involved in refurbishments at Barnsley and Doncaster and the installation of video links at all three courts now seems to be for nothing.

The travel to be imposed on families and friends, who want to be present for vital first hearings, subsequent bail applications and hugely important sentencings are a cost that will now have to be met by the poorest members of society rather than the government through the justice system.

If there is anything that can be done to avoid the alienation and injustice that these sorts of closures bring we, at The Johnson Partnership, want to help to do it. We have long felt that it is time that the justice system operated for the benefit of those defendants, the complainants and witnesses who find themselves unwittingly involved in it, rather than its administrators and overlords.

 

MANDATORY MADNESS

Written by Sian Hall
October 29th, 2017

As the Government chases new headlines for planning to impose mandatory six month terms of imprisonment for those carrying acid in a public place, for the second time we have to reflect on the real worth of this kind of sentence.

 

Mandatory sentencing is often not what it seems. Three years for a third strike burglar often means three years less 20% for those who admit the offences in early stage and can mean a lot less if there are special circumstances relating to there more to the offence.  The same is true for third strike Class A drug dealers.  Those found carrying knives in public for the second time should face a mandatory sentence of six months, but in reality this is a sentence that can be reduced to meet the justice of the case, depending on the circumstances of the offence or the client.   Presumably, acid carriers are likely to find themselves in the same position as their knife-wielding brethren.

 

Does the mandatory sentence then serve any real purpose? Are there any mandatory sentences that are not regularly devalued?   The argument must of course run that it is hard for governments to send out a message to members of the public who are likely to offend.  The announcement of six months in a prison for anybody committing a certain offence is an easy message that may well get across to more than most.  Of course,  the mandatory term also provides a thinking point for sentencing courts who might otherwise find themselves in a sea of inconsistency.  Nevertheless, the same sort of thinking point has been established for many offences by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, whose guidelines can be varied dependant on the social and legal landscape, without recourse to legislation.

 

It is worth reflecting that over the years the only two sentences that have remained largely unadulterated are life imprisonment for murderers and the mandatory driving ban for drink drivers. Odd bookends for a growing shelf of non-discretionary sentencing decisions.

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