Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Bad Character" is not a town in Austria

Johnny Boy (not his real name) is in trouble - he is charged with assaulting Jimmy Victim, an act witnessed by an unconnected third party - Jacqui Witness. Sounds like a fair cop ... but ...

Does it sound like an even easier decision if you know that Johnny Boy has a dozen previous convictions for violence ? He's done it before ... surely he's more likely than a regular Joe to do it again, right ?

How about if Jimmy Victim has his own previous record that marks him out as a small-time gangster ? Hmmm ... could be Johnny Boy was acting in self-defence and isn't it now possible that Don Jimmy is not telling the truth, the whole truth etc?

How about if Jacqui Witness has numerous alcohol-related convictions and until she was caught recently, she subsidised her income with benefits fraud? Not a reliable witness maybe.

Now put all three pieces of information together - basically a villain hit a villain and we should believe it because an alcoholic convicted fraudstress told us so.

This is where Bad Character applications come in. Before the main hearing, a bench of Magistrates can decide which of these pieces of information about the chequered history of the parties involved can be used in court.

In this particular case here, we allowed the previous violence of the defendant to be mentioned and only the violent previous offences of the victim (actual assaults but not money laundering, threats of violence, fraud and lots of etceteras)

After some debate we didn't allow Jacqui Witness' previous fraud to be mentioned and we didn't have any hesitation in denying the application in regards her alcohol convictions.

Goes against my basic instincts to restrict information in this way though. Surely we can trust the Magistrates trying the case to use the previous history where it seems relevant and to disregard it where it doesn't, rather than having a pre-trial trial with one bench of Magistrates pre-chewing the evidence for another bench ?

Also saves money - hint, hint.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mercury Prize Time Again

I've mentioned before that I like the Mercury Prize, even when I fundamentally disagree with the judges (Spreech Debelle - was that supposed to be funny ??).

I use it as an alarm clock to remind me mid-year that I don't want to turn into one of those clueless middle-aged men who thinks The Smiths might still be making albums, so I'd better check that I've listened to a shed-load of new music.

But it's a pretty poor line-up this year :-
  • Paul Weller and  Corinne Bailey Rae have made better albums
  • Dizzee Rascal is over-rated, over-exposed and under-good.
  • Two lots of insipid folky Irish bollox.
  • Laura Marling is very good, but Ellie Goulding is much, much better and she didn't get a nomination
  • The xx, Foals, I am Kloot, Biffy Clyro are the kind of bands supported by "students with too many posters of Betty Blue, The Blues Brothers, Big Blue and Blue Velvet on their blue bloody walls!" (ref: Spaced), so I'm never likely to approve.
I liked the token jazz entry (as usual), but it's never going to win and is hardly revolutionary.

In addition to the Ellie Goulding snub, there's another absentee I can't understand - Gorillaz's "Plastic Beach".

This is exactly the kind of album I expect the Mercury Prize to tip me off about - what's not to like about an album with tracks featuring collaborations between Mos Def and Bobby Womack, and between Mick Jones and Paul Simonon (my favourite bass guitarist - "Guns of Brixton" - goosebumps) ?

Oh well, there's always next year.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

“The torments of martyrdom are probably most keenly felt by the bystanders.”

The best known Magistrate Blogger, Bystander, has been getting some lip from the Provisional Wing of the Magistrates Association.

I'm referring here to the half dozen or so people who settle scores on the Association's rather creaky and very private members bulletin boards.

In summary, their problem with Bystander is that he says stuff they don't agree with and that he should stop moaning and get behind them and help them achieve their worthy purposes.

Last time I fell foul of this cabal, I was told to stop moaning and to get behind them and help them achieve their worthy purposes.

I'm detecting a pattern - you have to applaud their consistency at least.

I'm not going to write a full-on diatribe. This is mostly because I'm really quite stupid and not much of a writer. Instead I'll rely on a quotation from a properly smart writer, Mark Twain:-

“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”                                                           

I support the worthy purposes of the lay Magistracy unconditionally and I have put a tenth of my household income and most of my free time on the line for it. The Magistrates Association, however, only gets my support when it deserves it.

Hope that's OK with everyone. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Quick - must post something ... Oh, this'll do

I haven't run out of things to say on the blog - it's just that every day brings some new horror/wonder and my grasshopper mind skips off into the undergrowth.

Some highlights :-

(a) Government fiscal policy - the dictum of "if it hurts, it must be doing you good" can be disproved  by putting your head in a drawer, and closing it repeatedly until you realise your mistake or you get to the point where the whole process has done you so much good that you need to go to hospital now.

I'm in all favour of trimming fat, but these sadists seem to want the muscle and bone and lots of screaming too.

(b)  I have no sympathy for Raoul Moat. I do have sympathy with people who have complete mental breakdowns, but only the ones who dissolve into tears and get help. This guy was just a thug who lost his sense of proportion.

(c) I have no problems with Christians, Muslims or Jedis, but only one of these groups is imposing their toilet design on me.

(d) I don't know what happened to England in the World Cup either, but I'm reminded of the following piece of racing advice "Always bet on the best horse with the best rider". If you ever thought this was England, try the trick with the drawer described in (a) above.

Friday, July 09, 2010


I was watching a man in the dock clutching a paper bag. He was in extreme danger of vomitting and was shaking like a leaf.

The problem was that he had been detained overnight in a police cell and hadn't been able to take his methodone prescription. He was on a dose of around 100mg, so he must have been a recent serious heroin addict.

On top of this, he had learning disabilities and didn't seem too clear why he was there. To make matters even worse, it was one of the hottest days of the year and it must have been stifling behind the plexiglass.

And his alleged crime ?

"Animal cruelty"

Sometimes the criminal justice system really doesn't get it.