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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