A high non-compliance rate

I DO not know Councillor Mike Bell, but your article of November 17 suggests that he has a limited understanding of the democratic traditions of this country and little respect for the independence of the judiciary. Both are matters which I would have be

I DO not know Councillor Mike Bell, but your article of November 17 suggests that he has a limited understanding of the democratic traditions of this country and little respect for the independence of the judiciary. Both are matters which I would have been happy to have discussed with him had he contacted me.Councillor Bell appears to have little understanding of the criminal justice system and sentencing in particular. An antisocial behaviour order (ASBO) is not a criminal sentence; it is an ancillary order to the court sentence. A breach of an ASBO is a criminal offence. The case cited ended up with a 14-year-old girl being sent into custody, the most severe sentence a court in this country can pass; hardly a soft option.Furthermore the article gives no credence to the recent report of the Youth Justice Board which makes it clear that whilst ASBOs can be an effective tool when used properly they have a high non-compliance rate and are seen by some young people as a badge of honour. Magistrates are interested in what works not what makes good headlines.Unlike councillors, magistrates are unpaid volunteers, ordinary members of their communities in daily contact with people they live and work with. As for being open to public scrutiny - over 1,600 members of the public attended an open day this Saturday at the North Somerset courthouse. A large number of magistrates had given up their Saturday to speak to and to take part in activities with the public. Councillor Bell was nowhere to be seen.I trust this puts an end to this misunderstanding about the role and functions of the local judiciary.D R COOKNorth Somerset Court Bench Chairman


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