Thankfully a majority of the population still hasn`t found itself on the PNC or Police National Computer, one of the earlier attempts at a national database and I would suggest one of the most successful insofar as nobody has yet left any part on an unencrypted DVD on the back seat of a Camden bendybus. The PNC contains the details of offenders, their offences and their sentences. Public criticism of criminals` sentences usually arises in high profile cases widely reported in the national press or TV. However over 90% of cases are dealt with at Magistrates` Courts from first appearance to sentence where six months` imprisonment is usually the maximum available. There are those recently who have suggested that no miscreant should serve sentences shorter than twelve months, [ie shorter sentences should be wholly replaced by community orders,] because within that period there is no scope for any rehabilitation overlooking the fact that prison does not exist solely for social workers to cast their spells upon the inmates but to punish wrong doers and protect the public. Jack Straw considers that magistrates send too many of those convicted to be sentenced at Crown Courts by judges who of course have greater sentencing powers. Both views give the impression that sentencing at Magistrates` Courts is a bit of a hit and miss affair. It might have been so in the 1930s but in the “Naughties” it is a finely honed structural process undertaken by a bench of three highly trained JPs with a full PNC history and report from Probation to consider in addition to official Guidelines and a legal adviser available to ensure all proceedures and disposals are lawful.
Some criminal lawyers in the past have been said to have referred to a magistrate as “Muppet”. Perhaps we are all now Judge Judy.