Daily Mail - and the commentator Richard Littlejohn asserts that we are drowning in "regulations and jobsworths" and that the wrong people are being appointed as magistrates - see here. (I disagree with the latter remark). Magistrates use sentencing guidelines and the guidance for the section 4 offence may be seen at page 22 of this document.
article by George Monbiot containing some trenchant criticism of this verdict. It is to be noted that the female victim did not give evidence at the hearing. "Self-defence", as is often pointed out, is not strictly a "defence" but it offers a justification for the defendant's conduct. The defendant has to establish a basis that he acted in "self-defence" and it is then for the prosecution to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he did not act in self-defence. The "perceptions" of the defendant at the time of the incident are also very relevant since he is judged according to the circumstances which he believed existed: R v Gladstone Williams 1984. The amount of force used must have been "reasonable" in the circumstances. That, in broad terms, is the law. Having said this, I have some sympathy with the view of George Monbiot that Police Officers should not be tried by single judges. There is an essential need for the public to see that the trial process is fair to all parties and for them to have confidence in it. Monbiot argues that a jury should be used but juries are only used in the Crown Court. As the law stands, the choice of court depends on the offence charged and, if the offence is "either-way", on the seriousness of the offence. One possible alternative to a judge sitting alone might have been a judge sitting with two experienced lay magistrates (JPs) - a format which was successfully used here.
BCA v Singh  EWCA Civ 350 which is concerned with "honest belief" and "fair comment". Jack's blog has shown particular interest in this case - have a look. The case has very important implications which are discussed here.
Head of Legal has argued that now is not the time to go for a written constitution. Of Interest to some lawyers has followed the machinations (involving Jack Straw) over the appointment of the Head of the High Court's Family Division and, in the end, Sir Nicholas Wall has been appointed. The Magistrates' Blog has picked up on the appointment of a Victim's Commissioner and also on Allen v United Kingdom where the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a defendant's rights under Article 5 were breached when a judge refused her request to attend a hearing about her bail. There is a very outspoken opinion by Judge Bonello. Charon QC - a most interesting and entertaining blog - has launched an excellent new publication- Insite Law Newswire - 1st Edition.
Easter now beckons and the garden needs tidying. Have a good one and let's hope the weather picks up.
Addendum 1st May 2010: The lady "tagged" for the "goldfish" offence has had her appeal against sentence heard. The sentence was changed, very sensibly, to a conditional discharge. See Manchester Evening News.