Occasionally one comes across some examples of charging practice by the CPS and sentencing by magistrates which illustrate more clearly than often is the case some fundamental variations in what might be expected.
Careless driving, dangerous driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving and to a much lesser extent wanton and furious driving are examples well known to the magistrates` courts. The first is summary only, both offences of dangerous driving are either way and the last is indictable only. Where there is a grey area between the lower end of dangerous driving and the higher end of careless driving allowing for aggravating and mitigating factors sentencing can seem perverse. Such an example is reported in the Garstang Courier. It is however apparent to many professional and lay court users that the lower costs of bringing a summary charge to the magistrates` court has an influence on charging patterns. All J.P.s, I`m quite sure, after convicting and/or sentencing an offender for careless driving, have considered that the facts merited the either way charge. Indeed I recently had such an experience that was so blatant to be almost farcical but that can wait for another time.
The offence of no car insurance can be punished by a fine plus 6-8 penalty points or up to a year`s discretionary disqualification. It is far from uncommon for a bench to be faced with the knowledge that the imposition of penalty points will render the offender a totter with a resulting immediate six months ban. The only light for the offender at the end of that pedestrianised tunnel is that after the period of disqualification s/he will revert to a clean license. Those who can afford professional advocacy will have their representative plead for a short period of disqualification instead of a totting ban. Guidelines are unequivocal; totting with a consequent disqualification of six months is the primary route for sentencers. However nothing is set in stone and very occasionally arguments for a short ban in lieu of points will be well received.
An unrepresented offender at Truro Magistrates` Court recently convinced the bench to follow the alternative route to punish her. It is a moot point whether another tribunal would have been so generous but in an era where sentencing for summary offences is increasingly becoming a tick box exercise it is heartening to read of discretion being applied by those sitting in judgement.
The third and most sorry example is of 30 year old Jonathan Dean of no fixed abode. I have posted more times than I can remember on such examples of where the state has failed completely to be able to offer the slimmest prospect of a reasonable outcome. Such indifference is a carbuncle on the face of a civilised society. Compulsory incarceration under NHS provisions is the only way to deal with such down and outs. ASBOs, banning orders and the like which are the law`s only answer to such addictions are a complete waste of time and money but who cares?