Monday, 19 March 2018

Magistrate gives talk on legal system

A SMALL but appreciative audience of Henley Rotarians listened to a comprehensive explanation of the work of a magistrate when

A SMALL but appreciative audience of Henley Rotarians listened to a comprehensive explanation of the work of a magistrate when Tim Pocock talked to them at their twilight meeting at Henley Golf Club on Tuesday.

Mr Pocock, who lives in Headington, is in the second year of a three-year term as the first chairman of the consolidated Oxfordshire bench.

He said that Home Office figures showed there had been three-and-a-half million reported crimes in England and Wales in 2012/13 down from five million in 2007.

Of these, one million had been detected and, after deducting those offences taken into consideration and cautions etc., the remaining 581,000 were charged or summoned, resulting in a listing at the magistrates’ court.

There were now 238 courthouses, down from 356 three years ago, with 24,000 lay magistrates as well as a number of district judges (formerly known as stipendiary magistrates).

Including the above offences, they dealt with 1.6 million cases, including non-reportable crimes, such as TV licence evasion and minor motoring offences.

There were three types of offences, including summary, which are only dealt with in a magistrates’ court and indictable, which are only dealt with in a crown court although all the cases start with a short hearing before magistrates.

The third type were known as “either way” offences, for which the magistrates had to consider the seriousness before deciding whether their powers were sufficient or to commit to the crown court.

The maximum prison sentence which magistrates can impose is six months for one offence and 12 months in total for more than one.

Mr Pocock detailed the sequence of events from the first hearing, a guilty plea proceeding straight to a sentence subject to any reports requested, while a not guilty plea necessitated a trial, which could result in a conviction or acquittal.

He then dealt with the range of sentences, from an absolute discharge and conditional discharge, through fines and community sentences to custody, and explained how the magistrates followed sentencing guidelines while taking into account aggravating or mitigating circumstances. A discount was also given for an early guilty plea.

He mentioned a community payback scheme among the community sentences, the maximum amount which could be ordered being 300 hours of unpaid work.

Mr Pocock answered questions, mentioning the use of victim statements and the increasing use of restorative justice by deferring sentences to give the opportunity for the offender to meet the victim.

Club president Roger Sayer gave the vote of thanks.

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