On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
UK Government Announces New Powers For Magistrates Courts
Following the UK Government’s announcement on 18th January 2022 that it was allocating greater sentencing powers to magistrates, the stronger measures came into force on 2nd May 2022.
So What Are The New Measures?
Now, that these new measures have entered force magistrates will be able to pass any sentence they feel appropriate up to one-year imprisonment upon persons convicted in their respective courts.
Why Are They Being Implemented?
By introducing these measures the UK Government hopes to provide the Crown Court with around 2,000 working days of allocated time annually. The UK Government announced through Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab explained why the changes are to be imposed. He commented his opinion that the new powers go some way to ending the backlog which has been causing the Crown Court system a major headache over the last year. The UK Government hopes the Crown Courts will have more space to overcome the monumental task.
Nothing To See Here?
Many people will read the headline and think this is a pretty dull story, mediocre, and not worth the time and effort to report on. However, on the contrary, this story is of historic significance. Before the enactment of the new laws and rule on 2nd May 2022, the Magistrates Court was only provided with the limited sentencing powers to impose a maximum prison term of six months. In normal circumstances, those offenses of more serious character were sent to the Crown Court for an assessment and sentencing there. The new rules are an eye-opener because in the Magistrates Courts of England and Wales it will soon become commonplace to see criminals being handed down longer sentences for criminal offenses such as theft, assault, and fraud.
Interestingly, the UK Government appears to have added in sunset clause into the Judicial Review and Courts Bill which will seemingly act as some form of ‘off-switch’. This means that the new powers for magistrates to impose prison sentences of up to one year can be ended
The Magistrates Association seemingly could not hide their delight at the new sentencing powers for magistrates. The national chair heralded the reforms as a success following a lengthy campaign by the Association to be able to impose sentences of up to 12 months if a person is convicted of a single criminal offense. However, for all the fanfare at the new announcement, there has been much criticism from various quarters following the UK Government’s decision to provide the Magistrates Courts with greater sentencing powers. The criticism has come from parties such as the Law Society. The President of the Society, Stephanie Boyce commented that it was debatable whether extending the Magistrates Courts powers of sentencing would have any significant contribution to the reduction of the huge backlog of Crown Court cases.
More criticism came from the Howard League for Penal Reform who were incredibly disappointed at the introduction of the new measures. They harked back to the early 2000s when the Labour Government implemented reforms that provided magistrates with greater powers of sentencing. The Howard League were immensely critical that the UK Government had decided to bring forth these reforms without any:
- scrutiny; or
They went so far as to describe the situation to announce these new reforms on this basis as depressing.
What Do Lawyers Need To Be Advising Clients?
In the real world, law firms need to be advising clients that they now face longer sentences in the Magistrates Court as they have been increased from six months to twelve months.
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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES
 Fouzder, M – Magistrates to get power to impose one-year jail terms to cut backlog – Law Society Gazette - 18 January 2022 - Magistrates to get power to impose one-year jail terms to cut backlog | News | Law Gazette
 Slingo, J – Cool response to Labour’s seven-juror scheme – 27 January 2021 – Law Society Gazette - Cool response to Labour's seven-juror scheme | News | Law Gazette
 Coomber, A – Why extending the sentencing powers of magistrates is a bad idea – Howard League - 20 January 2022 - The Howard League | Why extending the sentencing powers of magistrates is a bad idea
 BBC News – Magistrates to get power to jail offenders for a year – 18 January 2022 - Magistrates to get power to jail offenders for a year - BBC News
 Magistrates’ Court given more power to tackle backlog – 18 January 2022 - Magistrates’ Courts given more power to tackle backlog - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)