I am one of the fortunate people who can experience a Christmas New Year period as a time for reflection and relaxation. Having some years ago had quite extensive training in traditional hatha yoga and latterly in transcendental meditation not only can I attempt to control psychological and physiological processes it does not take much effort to allow a certain amount of introspection to enter my consciousness.
Sometime after Christmas day I was thinking of the significance of a bench split in its decision and its consequences at the close of a trial. I would hazard a guess that over the years no more than 10% of the trials on which I have sat have led to such a division in the retiring room. That minority has probably been equally split between both majority guilty and not guilty. Of course nowhere is it recorded whether the verdict is or is not unanimous. The bench makes a collective decision and that is how it must remain; that is why we are a bench of three and IMHO a fairer method of judicial fact finding than a single individual however well qualified. However when it comes to the same bench sentencing I have noticed that there is no set pattern and certainly no guidance from anybody. Some colleagues who have been in the “acquit” minority quite logically, when opining on sentence using the correct structured approach, will state that their situation leads them to a minimum tariff whilst others decline to be involved. There is a third group which in acceptance of the bench decision will undertake the exercise without prejudice and partake in the usual manner.
That period of introspection has led me to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong approach morally, judicially or legally with any of the three situations as outlined above. Others might disagree. But now it`s back to the normal routine and my first trial sitting of the year next week.