Saturday, 16 January 2010

Your survey responses - tackling crime in Lambeth

I've been reading the 60-second surveys that have been flooding in. Great that people in Herne Hill Ward have been prepared to engage with this way of feeding back concerns.

I've passed on a collection of the ones on anti-social behaviour to Tom Cornish who is the Sergeant heading up the local Safer Neighbourhood Team. On the strength of observations from residents in Poets Corner, the evidence for some bike thefts associated with drug-dealing has come to light.

I'm what's called a Winger. Sadly this says nothing for my fancy foot work. I sit at Camberwell Magistrates Court as a Justice of the Peace in a Bench of three (1 Chair & 2 Wingers). I am due to sit in the 'virtual court'. Prisoners already serving sentences sit in a room in the prison and can converse via satellite link-up with the Bench and their barrister in court. The plus is that prisoners don't 'lose their place' in a prison by being booked out, prison transport isn't needed and it saves on court time.

The Lambeth & Southwark court at Camberwell Green is reasonably well-balanced in terms of ethnicity, age and gender - though we do have rather a lot of women. A 22-year-old has joined us. We greatly miss Ted Lewis, former Co-op trade Unionist, Communist & greyhound racer.

Being a Magistrate is fascinating. I happened to join after being in the police service but it's not about understanding actual laws, to begin with, but to understand how to arrive at a fair decision. The recent discussion about being allowed to use force against a burglary has been interesting. I am pleased there has been no change in the law.

It's surprising how little is understood about the criminal justice system. I invite anyone to pop into a court and observe for themselves. It might inspire them to want to become a Magistrate themselves.

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