Think of a Number. Now Halve it.

Many people will know that prison sentences in the UK are almost never served. Prisoners can generally expect to serve less than half of their sentence. The rest is spent out in the community “on license”. If these offenders re-offend, they may be taken back to prison to complete their term, but the original sentence is almost never served.

What you may not know is that magistrates are forbidden from considering this fact of life when arriving at their sentence. They must put this out of their minds, consider the offense, and then consider what time in prison would be appropriate for that crime. THEN the state will halve it or less.

Less me spell that out. Whatever masistrates think is the right sentence for the crime – the state will halve it, as a matter of course.

That is pretty perplexing right there. Why do we do that?

It’s an entirely reasonable question. And like so many other entirely reasonable questions about our criminal justice system – few know the answers. I served for four years, and I still don’t know. I asked around a lot; no-one else knew.

This is absolutely characteristic of the life of a magistrate. We must operate idiotic systems. We have no choices and so the “justice” we deliver is consequentially massively flawed.

Furthermore, no-one understands the “common sense” behind it, and quite often – no one cares. If you ask the professionals – the court clerks, they will have no explanations and often resent questions such as these as time wasting or trouble making.

Just show up, do your stint, and bugger off.

This is just one part of Great British Justice, as it happens up and down the country, every day. Year in, year out.


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