A COUNCIL wants to offer training sessions for magistrates after a series of disappointments over its prosecutions.

Members of Blackburn public services committee expressed frustration after magistrates imposed conditional discharges and ordered defendants to pay less in costs than the council asked for.

In two recent cases, people taken to court under nuisance abatement and food hygiene laws were given conditional discharges, and in one case a defendant was ordered to pay £400 costs instead of the £450 costs the council sought.

Coun Tony Humphrys pointed out "The council does not bring cases to court lightly, we bring them because of a nuisance to neighbours or a risk to health."

Borough environmental health officer Stuart Jackson said magistrates' decisions were sometimes demoralising for staff who had worked for many hours to bring a case to court.

Committee chairman Coun Nigel Nuttall said it was possible magistrates' hands were tied by legislation, in which case the council should press for laws to be amended.

Councillors also felt the council should at least get full costs if the case was proved, otherwise council taxpayers were left to foot the bill.

Members agreed with a move suggested by council solicitor Diane Thompson who said the council was willing to offer training sessions for magistrates to emphasise the public health aspects of such cases and drive home the fact that the council only brought such cases as a last resort.

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