Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Is a futile effort worth making?

There's an interesting post over at the Policeman's Blog, in which a young officer reports on his satisfaction after catching a significant group of burglars, only to realise the lightness of the sentence that would probably be handed down. He (naturally) wonders "what is the point?".

I will shortly be replying with my thoughts on the subject, i.e. that we as members of the public would rather that they continue making the effort, as otherwise the system is doomed. Only if officers keep on arresting burglars (etc) and highlighting the leniency of the sentences can we address the problem. If they stop bringing the burglars to the Courts, then how will anyone be able to notice that the sentences are too lenient?

I was also going to comment, in sympathy, that I had previously considered applying to be a Magistrate but decided not to - I felt that my views on sentencing were so at variance with the official line that I could not be part of such a system. That made me wonder; if I felt that the police should be bringing burglars to Court hearings despite feeling that it was pointless, surely I should apply to be a Magistrate in order to be in a position to change the system?

So: should I? Would the dissenting views of one junior Magistrate on a bench make a difference? Would there be any point at all, given that Magistrates are heavily constrained by sentencing guidelines - and that any departure from these would trigger an appeal?

Is it right to take part in and support a system that you believe is flawed?


  1. Do it. The system needs good people, and it could certainly use people who might provide what you might call a spot of *diversity* of opinion..!

  2. Go for it. If you don't make the effort, it certainly won't work. If you make a difference, however small, it's still a difference. Besides, one day you might get to a position where you can chang the d*mn guidelines!

  3. Or at least be in a position to persuade.

  4. I followed that link here, thanks.

    I recall with a certain amount of fondness a Magistrate from my youth, overheard stating that he didnt feel he had done his job unless there were at least two appeals agains his decisions in any one week