With almost half a year since the amalgamations of our three benches sitting with total strangers is still a regular feature for all my colleagues; I am as strange to them as they are to me……more so many would say. Having had a scientific background when I was appointed it was not at all difficult for me to appreciate the logic of and to put into practice “structural decision making”. I fear that some of my new colleagues with more years experience than I find this concept still a hurdle to overcome.
Not long ago we had to sentence an offender who was clearly in the category “so serious that custody is the only option”. This chap was where he was for multiple non violent offending. One colleague found it difficult to agree in principle to this disposal because his offending was indeed non violent nor involved any basic dishonesty. Eventually with our third member`s assistance she was brought round to the logical conclusion we had each reached.
This attitude to non violent offending is not confined to J.P.s. So called white collar crime attracts more than its fair share of apologists for non custodial sentencing in this country as opposed to America where financial fraud is generally dealt with more severely than here. It seems the same thinking is behind the complaints that all the resources being devoted to phone hacking etc are disproportionate and should be concentrated on anti social and violent criminality. There are certain fundamentals required for our still democratic way of life to be able to continue and those perhaps for some seem more esoteric than they would consider necessary.