Author Topic: The interests of justice?  (Read 734 times)

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Nosy Parker

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The interests of justice?
« on: February 09, 2024, 02:45:48 pm »
I've been asked to support a friend at a magistrates' court hearing.  He was given 6 points on his licence at the original hearing but did not have his licence suspended even though it took him up to 12 points.  The court has described this as an error and summoned him to a new hearing to consider whether it is in the interests of justice to reopen the sentencing. 

https://imgur.com/a/ldkTycc

Can it serve the interests of justice to haul a defendant back into court for re-sentencing just because the court made an error? Can we argue that a defendant is entitled to some finality and that this seems suspiciously close to double jeopardy? I'm not an expert in this area, hence my request for advice. I'm going to cast my net as widely as possible by posting also on PePiPoo

BTW, The court's letter had yet another error baked into it because it gave the date of the new hearing as 28 January, which was a Sunday.  The Defendant and I rearranged our lives in order to attend on the Sunday (we thought the court must be sitting at weekends to clear its Covid backlog).  Anyway, the defendant called the court on the Friday and sorted this out.  Any chance that this adds to the inherent injustice argument?

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andy_foster

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Re: The interests of justice?
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2024, 03:57:55 pm »
Can it serve the interests of justice? Yes
The law is not some game where the accused is given a sporting chance to avoid punishment for his wrongdoings (and the duty of the prosecutor is not to seek conviction at all costs, and police officers never lie...).

Is there an argument that it is unfair on the criminal? Yes. However, unless the court are particularly sympathetic, I can't see them not re-opening.
If sentencing is done by the same bench that decide to re-open, I would not be surprised if they were more sympathetic to any otherwise marginal exceptional hardship plea.

As regards the unfair/double jeopardy argument - I would expect it to carry more weight if it can be shown that the defendant had changed his position (analogue with estoppel), or that to disqualify him for 6 months now would be a harsher punishment than if they had done so (subject to exceptional hardship) at the time.

The potential issue with arguing that the court are not fit for purpose, is that you might need to invite the bench to recuse themselves. If you can make a distinction between the bench and the court staff (whether underfunded and overworked, or incompetent and arrogant), that might garner more sympathy.
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Nosy Parker

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Re: The interests of justice?
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2024, 05:20:22 pm »
I agree this is not a game.  But I can't see that the interests of justice allow the court to repeatedly haul in an offender till they get it right. If new evidence emerges that wasn't reasonably available at the time of the first sentencing hearing, fair enough.  But if the court just made a mistake as they seem to be saying here...

666

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Re: The interests of justice?
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2024, 05:39:40 pm »
I agree this is not a game.  But I can't see that the interests of justice allow the court to repeatedly haul in an offender till they get it right. If new evidence emerges that wasn't reasonably available at the time of the first sentencing hearing, fair enough.  But if the court just made a mistake as they seem to be saying here...
If they were "repeatedly hauling in" your friend, I would agree.

But they aren't. It's one hearing, to rectify a mistake. If the error had been to your friend's detriment, wouldn't he want a hearing to put it right?

Nosy Parker

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Re: The interests of justice?
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2024, 05:46:38 pm »

If they were "repeatedly hauling in" your friend, I would agree.

But they aren't. It's one hearing, to rectify a mistake. If the error had been to your friend's detriment, wouldn't he want a hearing to put it right?

If a hauling him in a second time isn't a repeat, what is?  I watched a show on TV last week.  They're showing it again tomorrow.  Good thing they're not repeating it.

In all seriousness, however, you are quite right; if the error had been to the Defendant's detriment, he'd expect to be able to appeal it.  But the criminal justice system has always recognised the inequality of arms between the State and the individual.  That is why there is a much higher hurdle for the prosecution to overcome when appealing an acquittal or seeking a tougher sentence than there is for the defence to overcome when appealing a conviction or seeking a lighter sentence.   

Southpaw82

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Re: The interests of justice?
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2024, 10:35:07 pm »
As I said in the other place, the disqualification isnít discretionary, it is mandatory (subject to exceptional hardship). Reopening the case to impose the order required by law is a paradigm case of the interests of justice.

Nosy Parker

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Re: The interests of justice?
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2024, 05:54:23 pm »
Thanks for the wise counsel on this forum and the other one.  The hearing was this morning.  I didn't bother with the double jeopardy argument and talked only about exceptional hardship. The magistrates accepted my arguments and the licence wasn't suspended.