Some years ago, while adjudicating on the magisterial bench, a case came before me which left me quite perplexed. The defendant was charged with some dubious breach of the peace offence. Top and bottom of this story: a man was going along his merry way, singing his merry little song, when two police officers in their squad cars decided to follow him. They did this for a while and when they drew level with him, they jumped out of the squad car and initiated a discussion with him. To the man, they said, ‘Are you alright, mate?’ This man, minding his own business, singing his little song as he went his merry way replied to the police officers: ‘’Firstly, I am not your mate and secondly, you can f**k off.’ Rather than ‘f***ing off’, the police officers proceeded to arrest the man. For breach of the peace. Henceforth we, the Justices of the Peace, had to decide whether this man, this defendant, had in fact breached the peace. On such flimsy circumstances and evidence before the court, I thought not.
Such an episode came back to me this week following the case of a grandmother being hauled before Guildford Magistrate’s Court for breaking a box of eggs during a row with her mother. Fifty-nine-year-old Alissa Ash was charged with damaging the £3 eggs with intent. Intent of what, I hear you ask. I’m asking the same thing myself! Alissa Ash had merrily thrown the eggs on the floor during a spat with her 89-year-old mother. Somehow or another the police got involved, but not just that, they actually proceeded (because that’s what they do, “proceed to press charges”) no matter how flimsy and frivolous the matter is.
As you can imagine, that magistrating lot at Guildford (like I was some years hence) were baffled that this matter of the eggs throw-down even made it to the door of the court and they could not find any criminality therein even though the charges against Ms Ash (otherwise of unblemished antecedents) were that she ‘intended to destroy or damage such property’ (the £3 eggs) or she was ‘reckless as to whether such property (the £3 eggs) would be destroyed or damaged.’
Giving Ms Ash an absolute discharge (i.e. no criminal record), the magistrates told the court that they also break a few eggs, every time they make breakfast (don’t laugh!).
The defendant, as mentioned in my case, didn’t even bother to take the trouble to come to court. Just as well, as we, the Justices of the Peace, found there was no case to answer for breach of the peace. Case dismissed.
It’s about time the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) stop wasting taxpayers’ time and money and concentrate their limited resources on finding real criminals.