One of the appeals was against conviction and sentence for a young man who had been charged with racially aggravated harassment with intent to cause the fear of violence followed a few days later with the same thing but not racially aggravated.
The bulk of the proceedings isn't worth repeating and was, quite frankly, abhorrent and boring but in the end, we found against the appellant at which point we were made privy to the sentence he had received. Not quite sure why but the Bench had sentenced him to a 3 month supervision order (probation).
As some of you may know, when an appeal against conviction is heard it is as though the whole trial is heard again from scratch but also that if the appeal is dismissed, sentence is at large, ie, the Appeal Bench can sentence in whatever way they think fit without any reference to the previous sentence.
Examination of this individual's previous record showed three previous convictions for racially aggravated section 4, and also, it became apparent that they were directed against other members of staff at the same establishment.
What was said in chambers is, of course, confidential but suffice to say that the Recorder was aghast, as were we all, that the previous sentence had been so lenient. We agreed a total of 11.5 months in custody for the offences and went back in to Court to give him the bad news.
Well... most judges are fairly circumspect in their sentencing remarks but this recorder said exactly what we thought, starting off with:-
"Mr. XXXXXX, you are an institutionalised racist thug and it is apparent to us that previous non custodial sentences have not got the point across to you. We intend to rectify that here and now. Your story has been a tissue of lies and we have not the slightest doubt of your guilt. You will go to prison for..."
That's what I call telling it like it is.
Oh, as an afterthought. He was originally sentenced five months ago so had completed the probation in full, well before his appeal came up.
I have little confidence in the efficacy of custodial sentences in terms of rehabilitating the offender but sometimes they are appropriate purely as retribution. This was one of those times in my view.
Oh, and that Recorder can become a Magistrate and sit on the Bench with me any time she likes