No-one is above the law. Recently we’ve seen falls from grace from such pillars of the establishment as a Cabinet Minister, a Barrister, a Solicitor (actually two) and even, ahem, a model. It’s only fitting that we could add a Judge to that. Step forward Carlton Janson – 8 months suspended for fraud.
Mr Janson is a Justice of the Peace (a magistrate). Although this is a part-time, voluntary position that does not require any legal qualification, a magistrate is still part of the judiciary. In due course, the Office for Judicial Complaints will (through the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice) remove Mr Janson from the magistracy (if he has not already been removed or resigned).
We are going off the news reports, which will hopefully be accurate. We know that Mr Janson pleaded guilty to four ‘fraud’ charges. We’ve put fraud in inverted commas as there were in fact two charges of ‘Obtaining Property by Deception‘ and two charges of ‘Fraud by False Representation’. The probable reason for this is that the offending spanned 15th January 2007 (when the offence of Obtaining Property by Deception was abolished and replaced (sort of) with the Fraud Act offences).
It seems that Mr Janson claimed expenses (we think) for his time sitting as a magistrates, between April 2006 and April 2011. He was however, at various times off sick, on leave and retired in that period. For that reason, he was not entitled to claim the expenses, hence the charges.
By his plea of guilty, Mr Janson would have accepted that this was not an oversight – he was doing this deliberately and was being dishonest.
We would sound a note of caution over the charges – everyone in Court, including Mr Janson, would have been familiar with the case of R v Preddy UKHL 13 which causes problems with money transfers. But whatever the charges, the criminality is as set out above. The total amount of money defrauded £22,076.
There are Sentencing Guidelines, which are always the starting point. It doesn’t fit into any of the categories, but would probably most tally with the ‘Banking & Insurance Fraud’ category (p24). The value is right at the bottom of the £20,000-100,000 bracket and it is probably the third bracket – not fraudulent from the outset, but one carried out over a significant period of time.
The starting point (after a trial, and Mr Janson would get full credit for pleading guilty) would be 36 weeks (but this is predicated on a value of £60,000) with a range of 12 weeks to 18 months. Given the value, the starting point would be about 12 weeks, or two months after a trial.
Why did Mr Janson get more? Presumably because this was an offence that was very severely aggravated by the fact that there was a massive breach of trust on Mr Janson’s part. What makes it worse is that it directly related to his work as a member of the judiciary. This would be more than reason enough to increase the sentence to the 8 months that Mr Janson got. It will be very unlikely that any appeal would be successful.
Mr Janson is not in prison today as the sentence was suspended. We don’t have the reasons why the Judge took that course, but it is not that unusual. This is especially so in the case of a man in his sixties who has never been in trouble before and will almost certainly not be in trouble again. Mr Janson would not have received any ‘favours’ from the Judge because he was a magistrate (in fact, generally the opposite would be true).
It should also be noted that there are about 30,000 magistrates in England and Wales. It is not therefore unusual that some get in to trouble with the law now and then.