Criminal justice system ‘cannot be put on hold’

CRIMINALS are not going to get away with offences due to the coronavirus pandemic, despite what they might think, a Magistrate’s Court judge has warned.

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Judge Graeme McKerrell gave a strong message to those who might seek to abuse the situation and said that the legal system was still functioning and if they committed an imprisonable offence, they would be jailed.

Judge McKerrell made his comments in the wake of two cases heard yesterday and on Wednesday.

In the first, a man had taken advantage of the one out/one in queuing system in place at the Co-op Locale at Royal Terrace and had shoplifted just over £10-worth of lager and food.

His offence was made worse because of the ongoing coronavirus warnings, said Judge McKerrell.

At the time of the offence the lockdown of the island had not been announced but social distancing was being enforced by the store.

Mr McKerrell said the shop staff were having to deal with an increased demand as well as increased uncertainty and the defendant’s behaviour had made the situation worse.

It had also led to the police being called, which had taken them away from more important duties.

Judge McKerrell’s strongest comments were made yesterday as he sentenced a man for head-butting another last December.

The defendant’s advocate had argued against sending his client to prison in this period of uncertainty.

That did not influence the judge’s verdict – the sentence he imposed of community service would have been the same whatever the public situation, he said.

Prior to passing sentence, he said people needed to be made aware that the courts were still working despite the pandemic.

‘We live in unique and challenging times that are unprecedented and the seriousness of the situation cannot be over-emphasised,’ he said.

While some cases could be deferred, others needed to be heard, he said, such as those where people were remanded in custody and needed to be sentenced.

‘The criminal justice system cannot be put on hold.

‘The clear message has to get out to those who attempt to commit crime or do commit crime that they should not think that the criminal justice system has been suspended and that they will not have to account for their actions.

‘Equally, victims of crime must not feel that they have been abandoned.

‘That is why the courts will remain open; to make sure that message remains loud and clear.

‘If people commit offences that require them to go to prison, then to prison they will go.

‘Whether it is serious in normal circumstances or in the present climate, makes no difference.

‘A clear message has to be sent out that law and order must be maintained.’

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