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New jailing powers by the magistrates court come into action

The government is being scrutinised again for allowing magistrates to sentence individuals for up to a year in prison following the controversial power which came into action this week.

The Ministry of Justice stated that the recent measure, made public in January, will allow for an extra 1,700 days of Crown court time per year.

Previously, magistrates were only entitled to give a maximum prison sentence of six-months, with cases sanctioning an extended custodial sentence being sent to the Crown court. They will now have the authority to sentence cases including fraud, theft and assault. 

The ministry announced that the Judicial College has provided ‘robust training’ to all legal advisers.

Details of the training were not contained in the department’s press release. Last month magistrates were told they must complete half a day’s training before their new powers commence, to be followed by local webinars in April and May.

Dominic Raab, Justice secretary said this week: ‘We are doing everything in our power to bring down the court backlog, and doubling the sentencing powers of magistrates will create more capacity in the Crown court to hear the most serious cases. Together with an extra 30 Nightingale courtrooms currently open, digital hearings and allowing the Crown court to hear as many cases as possible for another financial year, we will deliver swifter and more effective justice for victims.’

A former president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, Jon Black, stated: ‘Removing from society for six months (of a 12-month sentence) is too serious, has an incredibly wide knock-on effect and should be the preserve of professional judges with years of legal experience and training, not volunteers with spare time to give.’

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