Magistrates to get more powers to jail criminals for longer
Crime / Tue 18th Jan 2022 am31 09:11am
MAGISTRATES in England and Wales will be able to jail criminals for twice as long as they currently can, under plans to clear court backlogs reports the BBC.
The government is planning to allow magistrates to hand out sentences of up to a year, rather than six months.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab says he hopes it will free up crown courts which are facing huge delays.
But criminal lawyers are predicting it could have the opposite effect.
Magistrates – who are volunteers with no legal experience – deal with less serious crimes, for example motoring offences, minor assaults and some thefts.
But they can only impose prison sentences of up to six months for a single offence. So when magistrates think defendants deserve a prison sentence of longer than six months, they have to hand the case to a judge.
The Ministry of Justice thinks that by doubling magistrates’ sentencing powers to a year, it can stop about 500 cases going to crown court – giving judges 2,000 extra days to handle more serious crimes.
The courts system is facing unprecedented delays – and as of June last year there was a record high of more than 60,000 crown court trials waiting to be heard.
Many serious cases are being pushed back until late 2023 – with alleged victims saying they are struggling to cope as they wait for their cases to be heard.
For more details, click below.
This is the same Conservative Government that closed the Magistrates Court in Harlow.
Labour councillor Tony Edwards makes an interesting, but unrelated point as Magistrates Courts don't hold jury trials. The article stated a backlog of 60,000 Crown Court trials which have a jury. To see a list of court closures, none of them Crown Courts, a House of Lords question was answered February 2021, which shows Harlow Magistrates Court closed 30/04/2019. The answer also says: "We have now opened Nightingale courts at 21 locations, including the use of former court buildings, bringing the total number of temporary court rooms set up nationwide to 40. These additional temporary courtrooms have allowed us to increase capacity, particularly for jury trials." https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2021-01-25/HL12539/
Labour councillors should be far more concerned about ordinary people being imprisoned for an extra 6 months without a jury trial. I wonder how many miscarriages of justice will occur?
I have to say this announcement is misleading and doesn't help in reducing the backlog of cases in both magistrates and Crown courts. Why? Well it is much more complicated than just the headline. This increase in sentencing powers only relate to either-way cases in the magistrates' courts and will only delay cases because defendants' have the opportunity to chose Crown court justice in front of a jury of their peers. Most defendants will be advised to do this because it will delay their cases. Remember Crown courts have a backlog that means cases are being scheduled for 2023! In addition many lawyers have decided to work in civil law rather than criminal because of the ridiculous levels of Legal Aid fees. So representation by qualified lawyers is still a problem. It makes headlines rather than improving the legal and justice systems in England and Wales. And why announce it now? Well this government is in trouble with the electorate so making these changes is an obvious chance to change the agenda but they know that it will only last until the next scandal.
David, I was highlighting the hypocrisy of a Conservative Government talking tough on crime having previously closed Courts and stripped out resources. They were responsible for cutting the number of Police, privatising the probation service and cutting legal aid. Gary, your point was also made by a barrister talking yesterday on Radio 4 People may also interested in this link which give the latest crime figures for Harlow (see page 16) https://www.essex.pfcc.police.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/December-2021-District-Data.pdf