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Magistrates’ Association Peter Chapman, chairman Sentencing Committee 25000 unpaid, part-time members of the judiciary 300 courthouses across England and Wales 150 District Judges (Magistrates’ Courts). Today’s objectives.

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Magistrates association www magistrates association org uk

  • Peter Chapman, chairman Sentencing Committee

  • 25000 unpaid, part-time members of the judiciary

  • 300 courthouses across England and Wales

  • 150 District Judges (Magistrates’ Courts)

Today s objectives
Today’s objectives

  • Our understanding of why local authority and Environment Agency prosecutors may be dissatisfied

  • What the Magistrates’ Association is doing about it

  • What prosecutors can do to help themselves

What grumbles do prosecutors have
What grumbles do prosecutors have?

  • Lack of offence-specific guidelines

  • Apparently inconsistent sentencing, under use of community sentences and custody

  • Mismatch between fines and the cost of bringing prosecutions

  • Lack of court time

  • Difficulty of evidencing previous convictions

How do fines relate to income and offence
How do fines relate to income and offence?

  • Driving with no insurance

  • Non-imprisonable, fine is usual sanction

  • Band C fine - 150% of offender’s RWI

  • £165 for an offender on state benefits

  • £1500 for an offender on gross salary of £80000

  • Less one third discount for early guilty plea

What about environmental offences
What about environmental offences?

  • No offence-specific guideline such as for motoring, assault, theft, burglary, etc

  • High maximum fines – often £50000 instead of usual £5000 for summary trial

  • Magistrates will sentence on basis of harm and culpability

  • Fines for personal offenders to be capable of payment within one year

Is it worth prosecuting
Is it worth prosecuting?

  • CPS have an evidential test and a public interest test

  • When local authorities express dissatisfaction about low fines, they seem to be applying a cost/benefit test

  • Is it in the public interest to prosecute an offender of low means if the fine is unlikely to exceed £250?

What is the ma doing
What is the MA doing?

  • Sentencing guidelines are the sole responsibility of the Sentencing Council


  • MCSG can be downloaded from their website

  • We’ve told them that specific guidelines for environmental offences are our top priority

  • Our request supported by Keep Britain Tidy

  • DEFRA and WAG have collected data

Costing the earth
Costing the Earth

  • Published by the MA

  • Downloadable as PDF from our website

  • Guidance, not guidelines

  • Numerous offence scenarios concerning pollution, health and safety, fishing, wildlife

  • Has informed comment about appropriate sentencing

What can you do 1 pre court
What can you do?(1) pre court

  • Have realistic expectations

  • Research sentences for similar offences

  • Calculate the savings attributable to operating illegally and unlicensed

  • Calculate your costs for investigation and rectification

  • Prepare schedule of aggravating features

  • Prepare community impact statement

What can you do 2 in court
What can you do?(2) in court

  • Recognize that for the bench, environmental prosecutions are rare

  • Help them assess harm and culpability

  • Identify commercial activity

  • Offer to give details of other cases

  • Ask for driving disqualifications and vehicle forfeiture if appropriate

What can you do 3 outside court
What can you do(3) outside court

  • Speak to the justices’ clerk/legal team manager

  • Offer to run awareness sessions at magistrates’ training

  • Please keep the Magistrates’ Association informed of concerns and developments