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Magistrates eager for new powers

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Magistrates are set to be handed new powers to sentence more convicted criminals under reforms unveiled by justice minister Damian Green today.

Green is proposing that around 4,000 defendants each year are dealt with in the magistrates’ court rather than being sent to the crown court for sentencing.

The move is expected to save the Ministry of Justice significant sums, as a magistrates’ court at £1,400 per day costs less than the £2,150 daily bill for a crown court sitting day.

It will mean the 23,500 magistrates in England and Wales – who receive training but are volunteer members of the community – get substantial new powers.

At present all cases with a potential sentence of six months or over must be transferred from magistrates to crown court.

But the Magistrates Association, which has welcomed today’s proposals, is set to seek a change in the rules to allow it to make convictions on cases where the maximum sentence is 12 months.

“This is a clear demonstration of both the government’s commitment to magistrates and its confidence in the magistracy,” a spokesperson told Politics.co.uk.

“We’ve been looking to try to get 12-month custody [cases] because we believe we could deal with things much more efficiently.”

A formal consultation on the proposals will be launched later this year.

Around 9,800 defendants were convicted by magistrates and then sent to the crown court for sentencing in 2012.

“Four out of ten defendants sent to the crown court for sentencing received custodial sentences that could have been handed in the magistrates’ court – we need to look at why this is happening and if we need to do more to make the best use of magistrates,” Green said in a speech today.

“We need to keep the right cases in the right court if we are to have a modern justice system in a fair society.”

 

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Law & Politics

Police Will Be Able To Read Everyone’s Internet Search History Under New Plan

UK Police are asking the government for new surveillance powers to be able to view the Internet search history of every single person in the country.

Richard Berry, the National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman told The Guardian that “We want to police by consent, and we want to ensure that privacy safeguards are in place. But we need to balance this with the needs of the vulnerable and the victims. We essentially need the ‘who, where, when and what’ of any communication – who initiated it, where were they and when did it happened. And a little bit of the ‘what’, were they on Facebook, or a banking site, or an illegal child-abuse image-sharing website?”

“Five years ago, [a suspect] could have physically walked into a bank and carried out a transaction. We could have put a surveillance team on that but now, most of it is done online. We just want to know about the visit,” he added.

It is likely that police are already looking at your online activity, but just want the power to do it legally. As we learned from whistleblower Edward Snowden, governments are very interested what their citizens are doing online, and they do have the technology to spy on every telephone call and Internet communication.

Police in the UK have been attempting to reach for these powers through legislation for years, but they have been blocked on multiple occasions. This new effort proves that they will not be giving up on getting legal permission for their spying programs.

MP David Davis told The Guardian “It’s extraordinary they’re asking for this again, they are overreaching and there is no proven need to retain such data for a year.”

Home Secretary Theresa May will announce the specifics of the plan during a meeting about the Government’s new surveillance bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

“I’ve said many times before that it is not possible to debate the balance between privacy and security, including the rights and wrongs of intrusive powers and the oversight arrangements that govern them without also considering the threats that we face as a country,” May said.

“They include not just terrorism from overseas and home-grown in the UK, but also industrial, military and state espionage.They include not just organized criminality, but also the proliferation of once physical crimes online, such as child sexual exploitation. And the technological challenges that that brings. In the face of such threats we have a duty to ensure that the agencies whose job it is to keep us safe have the powers they need to do the job,” she added.

 

daily alternative | alternative news -Police Will Be Able To Read Everyone’s Internet Search History Under New Plan

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