Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Every Night You Cry

The Barnardo's report "Every Night You Cry" is difficult reading, especially for Magistrates. It contains some really heart-wrenching stories from the children of prisoners, showing how locking up their parents affects them.

The part where I stopped being quite so supportive is where they propose the following:-

" measures put in place for courts to have information on the impact on the children of a defendant of any sentence they may make"

To me this pushes the blame for the suffering of children onto the nasty Magistrates, when the blame properly belongs with the criminal parents, who should have thought about the effect on their families before doing the crime.

I've put a total of three people in prison in the course of my year so far, and in all of these cases the person had numerous warnings and last chances but still persisted in offending to the point where custody became inevitable. Should I really have thought "Hmmm - this one's got kids - she gets a curfew. But that one hasn't - he goes down" ?

Bad people should go to prison when they do bad enough things.

That's not something that should be changed - but I do hope that the State and charities like Barnardo's work out a way to cushion the blow for the kids.


David Katz said...

I completely agree with you on this. If they do bad enough things they go to prison.

Also from my point of view as a lawyer for Childrens Services there are few things more frustrating than when the person from whose care we are trying to get the children removed escapes a prison sentence because of spurious claims about how the children will be adversely saffected. Probably worth asking for a report from Childrens Services in such cases rather than relying on self-serving assertions from the defendant in the Pre-Sentence Report.

Stan said...

Thanks for insight, David - good to see a different side to this.

It reminds me of a scenario from my first interview to become a Magistrate : "Would you put a woman in prison if it meant her kids would be taken into care?"

My answer near as I can remember was "Yes, if she's guilty of a crime requiring jail, then she must go to jail : the state will look after her children"

Some training and one year experience later and my answer would be exactly the same.