I didn't have much confidence that I was going to enjoy my training session on the new guidelines on Assault. I had a sinking feeling that that this would be yet another attempt by The Powers to stop me imprisoning people who deserve prison just to save a few quid.
In fact the Guidelines are rather good. You feel there are some fine minds at work here and the detail indicates a huge amount of practical experience. True, there is a slight softening of the penalties involved in low level assault, but equally there is a hardening at the upper end which was a pleasant surprise.
I remember well a Common Assault case that I blogged about back in 2009. This was a hateful case where a man had argued with his pregnant wife (she was sitting on the stairs in their house) - she had yelled back that he couldn't hit her because she was pregnant - he shrugged and made sure that all his punches were to her face while in the background their young daughter was yelling for him to stop.
For some reason this was charged by the CPS as a Common Assault (s39) to which the defendent gratefully pleaded guilty, ensuring that all we could give was a tiny prison sentence or a Community sentence.
Under the new rules this would go right to the top end of the newly extended guidelines thanks to increased culpability and increased harm (premeditation, presence of a child, pregnant woman afraid for unborn child, sustained assault) and suddenly our wife-beater is looking to get the full six months (less guilty plea allowance). Doesn't quite make up for the CPS undercharging the offence, but that's someone else's issue to resolve.
One of the worked examples in the training materials concerns a drunk who punches an ambulance worker in the face while they were doing their duty. As Stanetta is intending to pursue a career as a paramedic, I'm probably not the right Magistrate to ask what the correct punishment for this should be. The model answer is "High Level Community Punishment" - I'd prefer something involving electricity.