Last night Charles Hymas who is the Home Affairs Editor for the Telegraph published an article, which can be obtained from here and the first part of which is listed below. The comment begins with the phrase “Magistrates could jail criminals for twice as long in justice shake-up” and towards the end of the element I have included is the comment that “Earlier this year, their sentencing powers were also doubled from six to 12 months. The proposal from Brandon Lewis is that having increased their situation from half a year which has been in their position for many years to one year that he now wants to extend it to two years so in effect he is extending their action by four times in less than one year. Now of course if the Magistrates wanted to significantly increase their influence, to extend their role by four times would potentially be acceptable. However there is a very clear indication that many of them were not calling for it to be extended and to do so twice in one year without a meaningful contact is very concerning. After all if Parliament called for MPs to change their roles twice in one year would be very disturbing. I was previously the Chair of the Surrey and Sussex Courts Board when the previous Government called for community members to participate and one of the people I worked with for several years was Jon Collins. Jon is now the Chief Executive of the Prisoners Education Trust and he has commented on twitter
There was a lot of concern when magistrates’ sentencing powers were increased from six months in prison to a year. Now Brandon Lewis is reportedly considering a further increase to two years.
So we clearly need Brandon Lewis to engage with Magistrates before this extension takes place. Here is the first half of the piece from Charles Hymas
Magistrates could jail criminals for twice as long in justice shake-up
Sentencing powers reform would let JPs try more serious offences, cutting court waits
By Charles Hymas, HOME AFFAIRS EDITOR 11 October 2022 • 10:14pm
Magistrates could get powers to jail criminals for longer under plans by ministers to clear backlogs and reduce trial delays for victims.
The shake-up being considered by Brandon Lewis, the Justice Secretary, could double the jail terms that magistrates can impose from the current maximum of one year to two years.
It would enable JPs to try more serious offences of assault, drug-dealing, affray, fraud and theft without having to send them to the clogged crown courts.
Backers of the plan say magistrates already have powers to sentence offenders in the youth courts to two years in custody and that they have the capacity to help cut the backlog of 60,000 crown court cases that grew during the barristers’ strike. It has led to delays of two years for some victims to get justice.
Magistrates have cut their backlogs by nearly 100,000 to 350,000 since the pandemic brought courts to a standstill. They are also in the process of mounting their biggest recruitment in their 650-year history to bring in 4,000 extra JPs.
Earlier this year, their sentencing powers were also doubled from six to 12 months.
There could, however, be a backlash from civil rights campaigners if any reforms are seen to erode the right of defendants to elect for a jury trial in the crown court.