Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.
Comments are usually moderated. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment. If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.
Monday, 16 September 2019
Notwithstanding the above I was pleased to read of common situations where, in contrast to government direction to avoid immediate custodial sentences at magistrates courts, two offenders were sent to immediate jail for offences and histories which I believe all but fanatic believers in non custody outcomes would applaud. Fortunately most of us will not be involved directly as victims of crime on the streets, in the pub or in our homes but on the roads as drivers or passengers in cars and other vehicles the situation is quite different. My wife`s best friend`s daughter was killed driving her car on the M6 by a repeat disqualified drunk driver who was disqualified, using her mobile phone and drunk at the time. These two examples of society`s retribution for such offending are, I fear, not dispensed perhaps as often as perhaps some would wish. Instead the MOJ recently issued a press release to ban all mobile phone use in a vehicle including those that in most new cars are hands free. This legislation will never happen. It is a frightener from the weasels at Petty France in conjunction with "look at me attention seeking MPs" to divert attention from matters which do require our attention; namely returning legal aid provision and CPS numbers to 2009 levels notwithstanding proposals to reduce even further the numbers of magistrates courts.
That is the system which is being undermined every day by a government which regards it as a necessary evil to its long term target of control by managed decay. Perhaps there are those who look upon courts of the 19th century as the best application of justice for the common man?
Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Darren Marples should be confined by a compulsory order to an institution where he could be treated just as those in the appropriate circumstances can be sectioned and treated by mental health workers having if necessary been granted a warrant of entry from a Justice of the Peace. Of course those financially equipped can avail themselves of all the help and assistance available to medical science but for most of the Darren Marples of this world those clinics could be on the planet Mars. The phrase “be cruel to be kind” is applicable in both cases; schizophrenics and alcoholics and/or drug addicts but the former have that protection that the latter are denied
Thursday, 5 September 2019
Of all the iniquitous financial reductions imposed upon the justice system perhaps the very worst is the reduction in the availability of legal aid. At Barkingside and Romford magistrates' courts notice has been given that there will be further difficulties for defendants as fewer solicitors will be available to assist them. This is a national disgrace but apart from most professionals will be recognised as such only by those caught up in the court system.
It`s unusual for a defendant being given the maximum custodial sentence at a magistrates court also having that sentence suspended. All I will say is that if I were involved the sentence would have been shorter and it would have been immediate.
At Sheffield Crown Court a remanded defendant refused to appear in court by video link for the first hearing yet the judge did not sentence him for contempt. Am I missing something or was this another example of a judge failing to use the powers at his disposal specifically available to punish those who treat the law with disdain.
Monday, 2 September 2019
Friday, 30 August 2019
What next for attempts to define 'Islamophobia'?
One of the outstanding issues that Theresa May left for Boris Johnson’s government to pick up this summer concerned demands for there to be an officially-sanctioned definition of 'Islamophobia'. Campaigners have long been calling for one, and the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims increased the pressure late last year by producing its own definition, describing Islamophobia as a ‘type of racism’. Given that Muslims are of a religious faith rather than a race, this is nonsensical.
Any such attempt to protect Islam from criticism is also a serious threat to free speech, as a new Civitas publication warned this month. The collection featured authors including Peter Tatchell, Richard Dawkins and a range of different religious and secularist commentators, and was edited by Emma Webb, director of Civitas’s new Forum on Integration, Democracy and Extremism. As Prof Dawkins put it succinctly:
‘Hatred of Muslims is unequivocally reprehensible, as is hatred of any group of people such as gay people or members of a race. Hatred of Islam, on the other hand, is easily justified, as is hatred of any other religion or obnoxious ideology.’
But while Mrs May’s government rejected the definition proposed by the APPG, it did agree that there should be a definition of some kind and set in train a process to decide a form of words. The appointment of one of two intended advisers was rubber-stamped in haste in her final week in Number 10.
The new prime minister must decide now where this process goes next. The most prudent course would be to abandon it.
Thursday, 22 August 2019
Tuesday, 20 August 2019
Friday, 16 August 2019
A sub contractor for these services went out of business last week. It is now obvious that all government departments are obsessed with outsourcing. In the oft forgotten days of the Callaghan administration and earlier, government employees used their trade union affiliations to cause havoc to public services. I remember the three day week of 1972 and eating by candle light. I remember rats searching in uncollected rubbish in 1979. There was no doubt that Maggie Thatcher`s reforms to prevent such events was welcome relief but now the pendulum has swung to the maximum of its arc. The principle of such activities has been taken much too far. There are some services which must now be taken under direct control before their inefficiencies and siphoning off of capital as dividends lead some naive voters to think that the antisemitic communist Corbyn has the answer to our economic problems.
However I would be being naive in thinking that that is going to happen. Our capitalist system which has been allowed by the Conservative Party to be relatively unfettered in its greed is liable to be responsible for its own downfall. It would be poetic were it not so dangerous for the well being of us all.
Tuesday, 13 August 2019
Tuesday, 6 August 2019
It seems that the situation in Bradford is no better now and arguably worse as the parliamentary answer of last week shows below. For the complete exchange access is here.
We used to read of the dreadful delays in places like India where defendants awaited trial for many years and sometimes waited in custody on remand. "How awful", would be the opinion of most of the legal world. We used to read of the corruption of police in Pakistan or in some Eastern European countries. "How awful", would be the outcry of British police authorities. We used to read of political double dealing in our near European neighbours and our parliamentary representatives would answer interviewers` questions, "How awful".
Our justice system as an appendage of our total democratic system can now be summed up by just those two words "How awful".
Thursday, 1 August 2019
Whilst on the bench the most onerous decision making for me was not about whether to convict or acquit, to jail or not to jail but to decide if it were unsafe to bail an untried defendant especially in cases of alleged domestic violence. Since then the procedure regarding bail has changed drastically. If I were a cynic I would suggest that these changes were designed to reduce the number of people kept in prison on remand but of course government does not operate like a black market shyster during World War 2. Being now unable to keep suspects on almost unlimited bail with the associated conditions imposed police must release them without any conditions until they are ready to charge; this is called released under investigation. This has been the case since April 2017. Since then the Metropolitan Police have released 97 out of 284 murder suspects. During the same period 807 suspects have been similarly released. Of those suspects no figures are available for what subsequently happened to them. Once again as has been the MOJ philosophy for at least two decades the tail of the target to reduce the numbers of prisoners has wagged the dog of the duty of a government to keep its citizens safe.
It is against the law to use a mobile phone whilst driving; the operative word being use. At least that is what I and tens of thousands of judges, JPs and lawyers thought was the law. But, and it`s a very big but, yesterday at the High Court the pronouncement from the bench was that the legislation does not prevent all use of a mobile phone held while driving. The defendant claimed in his defence that he was shooting a video with the phone`s camera. This decision opens up a large can of worms. The press report is here although there might be some difficulty tracing it.
The conviction of the offender who gained notoriety as "Nick" has produced not unexpected ramifications. The newly installed Justice Secretary has backed a call from Sir Cliff Richard and Paul Gambaccini to ban the naming of those arrested for rape and other sexual offences. A report can be accessed here for those who wish to note opinion other than from their usual media.
Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Tuesday, 23 July 2019
Whenever there is talk on line, in the press, on TV and in Parliament of magistrates and their diversity or lack thereof, keyboards and throats get on their metaphorical high horses and proclaim how diverse the magistracy is in almost all aspects of gender, age and ethnic origin. They try to be so transparent as to be free to the wind. But when it comes to policies that affect magistrates courts those weasels in Petty France and Fitzrovia are rather less likely to be what you see is what you get organisations.
For many decades the Magistrates Association has existed and I suppose still exists as an organisation of paying members of the magistracy to be their representative in dealings with government in its widest form. At its peak about a decade ago or so there were around 30,000 magistrates of whom about 80% were MA members. Now numbers of JPs have halved and the MA membership is a much lower percentage putting great financial strain on that organisation. It has even stooped to the level of doing some dubious deals with probation providers to raise capital. Nevertheless its clout with government has been reduced to a whimper. A couple of years ago advertisements in appropriate media were placed by the Ministry of Justice for the appointment of a "national leadership magistrate" notwithstanding that there was already functioning an organisation The Bench Chairmen`s Forum which consisted inter alia of the chairmen of all the benches in England and Wales. Considering that each chairman is the result of a bench wide election one would have thought that as a collective their opinions had merit. After the appointment of the aforesaid magistrate further ads appeared inviting applications for seven positions as regional leadership magistrates. I posted on this as early as 14th June 2018 . Last week a pressure group, Transform Justice, also posted on this topic.
These people are the toads of the MOJ. They represent nobody. Perhaps they are seeking long term non financial benefits eg gongs. Perhaps they consider themselves to be superior to their colleagues. One factor of which there is no doubt is that their identities are secret; SECRET in this supposedly age of openness. Copied below is yesterday`s written question to Paul Maynard The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice and his answer.
This action of withholding the identity of these lackeys is nothing short of an affront to open government. Their names should be published forthwith and as the old adage said "if they find the kitchen is too hot for them then they should bugger off".
Friday, 19 July 2019
Insert "Richard Page" into the search box and you will find a history of one of the most controversial sackings of a Justice of the Peace in living memory. The posts, the most recent of which was earlier this year on January 7th, need no explanation; they speak for themselves. It seems the final chapter of this story has been written. An employment appeal tribunal has ruled that he was rightly dismissed. Readers will have their own opinion on the decision made earlier this week.
The above was the first paragraph of my post last month on June 21st. Another case of interest is the recent successful appeal by a Christian student expelled from his university. The two cases of course are quite different but paradoxically similar in many ways. I posted on this topic on 5th October 2017.
Religious belief, Christian, Muslim and Jewish has seemed to be more in the legal news than in previous years. Considering that this is ostensibly a passive Christian country and that the Jewish population is only 250K it is not unlikely that with about three million Muslims in the UK many of whom are sympathetic to a strict interpretation of Islam it will be from that area that future legal and social conflict with religion will arise.