A MAGISTRATE who retired yesterday after 25 years on the Bench said punishment hardly features in court sentences these days.
Alan Bissell also hit out at the increasing number of criminal cases which never end up in court.
Mr Bissell, of Flint, said thousands of cases, including serious cases which should come to court, are being disposed of by police cautions.
He expressed his dismay at the way the work of the court had been diminished over the years – to the point where punishment is no longer the priority.
Mr Bissell, who has a reputation as a tough magistrate, said the law had changed a lot in his 25 years on the Bench.
Speaking on his last day at Flintshire Magistrates Court, where colleagues, staff and court users gathered to pay tribute, he said he came from the background of the former Flint court, where punishment was one of the main themes.
“It seems to me that it has diminished to the point where it hardly features these days,” he said.
“Rehabilitation is washing over everything. Although it has its place, quite clearly, I’m personally very dismayed that the work of the court has diminished to the extent that it has.
“It dismays me that so much of the work that should be before the court is being handled by the police in terms of cautions.”
He said people were cautioned for offences which should be before the courts – such as robbery, sexual offences and violence.
He said that this week he had read there was a possibility of that changing – that there was a suggestion that the courts should oversee cautions being handed out.
But actions spoke louder than words, he said. Over the years, successive governments had promised to be hard on offenders but it had “all come to naught”.
Mr Bissell added that his period on the Bench had been very fulfilling.
Tributes to his work were paid by legal adviser Paul Conlon, prosecutor Justin Espie, defence solicitor Brian Cross, youth justice worker Jamie Warr and Bench chairman Carol Sorohan.
Mr Bissell was described as a man who loved the law, maintained high standards and ensured defendants, particularly the young, were left in no doubt of the seriousness of their crimes and the consequences if they returned to court.
Mr Bissell has led a colourful life. In the mid 60s and early 70s he worked in the private office of four successive Government ministers: Ray Gunter, Barbara Castle, Robert Carr and Maurice MacMillan Jnr.
In the summer of 1965, he drove an authentic privately-owned London double-decker bus across France to Basle in Switzerland.
The following year he went with it to Geneva and then to the South of France in 1967 on holidays.
He also drove the same bus in the film To Sir With Love featuring Sidney Poitier and Lulu, which was filmed in the east end of London; in the Ray Charles film Ballad in Blue and also in several episodes of the TV series The Persuaders filmed at Pinewood Studios and starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis.
Since moving to North Wales, he has been involved in a range of activities including acting as secretary of Flint Operatic Society for 13 years, a governor at Flint Gwynedd Primary School for five years, a governor at Flint High School for three years and secretary of Flint Horticultural Society for three years.
He spent the last 10 years of his working life at Yale College, Wrexham.
Mr Bissell was appointed as a Justice of the Peace on November 21 1989, sitting initially at Flint courthouse and subsequently at Mold on the Flintshire bench. He has been chairman of an adult court and a youth court for many years.
l What do you think? Email firstname.lastname@example.org