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Erm, no Polly

He will double magistrates\’ sentencing powers, but prisons are already twice as full as when the Conservatives left power.

No, he\’s not suggesting that magistrates should be able to double the sentences for those crimes which come before them. He\’s suggesting that crimes which carry double the potential sentence that Magistrates can currently impose should be heard by Magistrate\’s Courts rather than Crown Courts.

There will be no increase in sentences: just a movement of cases from the horribly overburdened Crown Courts to the Magistrate\’s.

To clarify, crimes which carry a potential 6 month sentence are heard in the Magistrate\’s those with higher than that in Crown Court. Cameron is proposing that Magistrate\’s should hear more of extant cases, not that more cases be heard nor that sentences be increased.

There\’s a good civil liberties argument against this: which is that only in Crown Court can you get a jury trial. If you\’re potentially going to be locked up for a year, perhaps you ought to be able to insist upon a trial by your peers? Whether that argument against the idea holds up depends upon whether you\’ve still the choice as the accused to opt for Crown rather than Magistrate\’s.

In short, Polly\’s blathering because she\’s got the wrong end of the stick.

7 thoughts on “Erm, no Polly”

  1. Or we could legalise drugs, brothels and scrap victimless crime laws. That should empty the prisons and courts.

  2. No, it’s wrong to make personal insults. Unless they happen to be Latvian MEP. Then you can call someone an anti-Semite, a racist, a fascist as much as you like.

  3. Sadly, there is no facility to comment on her latest twaddle.

    Perhaps the virtually unanimous hostility is getting to her.

  4. >In short, Polly’s blathering because she’s got the wrong end of the stick.

    In related news, a dog is reported to have bitten a man in Salford.

  5. There is nothing anti-libertarian against wishing crime to be condignly punished. Exactly what ‘condign’ means in a modern polity is open to debate, but I don’t think that incarceration is off the menu. For those crimes for which the re-offence rate is particularly high (e.g. burglary) the prophylactic effect alone is highly effective.

    What I would like to know is, how did it come about that nominal sentencing tariffs are so wildly at odds with actuality? When a thief is sentenced to 15 months in prison, what is the rationale behind releasing him after five? Why does automatic parole and time off for good behaviour apply? If it’s just to save prison space and money, then fine, admit it. But right now it’s simply de facto that a sentence of x equates to x/3 in reality. When did we consent to this? Who asked us if that is what we wanted to see? How can we row things back to the point where villains face a serious risk of punishment without having to burn them at the stake? How much more money will it cost? If we sacked 50% of the MOD and abolished DEFRA, the DCMS and all the regional authorities, could we balance the books?

  6. But David, it’s massively worse than that.
    Under the current regime, a sentence of 28 days imprisonment, if dished out on a Friday actually means…. immediate release.

    [28 days less 1/3 = 21 days.
    Less 18 days (early release nonsense to relieve over crowding) = 3 days.

    Both end days count as full days, so 3 days = Fri, Sat, Sun. Prisons don’t release on Sundays, and Monday would count as 4 days inside, so release immediately.]

    Think what that does to the deterrent effect of prison, if there ever was one….

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