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 ten years whilst I was active I retain it now only as a literary device no longer actually using the term JP for any other purpose whatsoever.





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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Friday, 3 April 2020

A DARK ROAD AHEAD


Restrictions on movement
6.—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living
without reasonable excuse.
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need—
(a) to obtain basic necessities, including food and medical supplies for those in the same
household (including any pets or animals in the household) or for vulnerable persons and
supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household, or the
household of a vulnerable person, or to obtain money, including from any business listed
in Part 3 of Schedule 2;
(b) to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household;
(c) to seek medical assistance, including to access any of the services referred to in paragraph
37 or 38 of Schedule 2;
(d) to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care within the meaning of
paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006(a), to
a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;
(e) to donate blood;
(f) to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it
is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the
place where they are living;
(g) to attend a funeral of—
(i) a member of the person’s household,
(ii) a close family member, or
(iii) if no-one within sub-paragraphs (i) or (ii) are attending, a friend;
(h) to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions, or to
participate in legal proceedings;
(i) to access critical public services, including—
(a) 2006 c. 47. Sub-paragraph (3B) was substituted, with sub-paragraphs (1), (3) and (3A) to (3E) for sub-paragraphs (1) to (3)
by s. 66(2) of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (c. 9).
5
(i) childcare or educational facilities (where these are still available to a child in relation
to whom that person is the parent, or has parental responsibility for, or care of the
child);
(ii) social services;
(iii) services provided by the Department of Work and Pensions;
(iv) services provided to victims (such as victims of crime);
(j) in relation to children who do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of
their parents, to continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between,
parents and children, and for the purposes of this paragraph, “parent” includes a person
who is not a parent of the child, but who has parental responsibility for, or who has care
of, the child;
(k) in the case of a minister of religion or worship leader, to go to their place of worship;
(l) to move house where reasonably necessary;
(m) to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm.
(3) For the purposes of paragraph (1), the place where a person is living includes the premises
where they live together with any garden, yard, passage, stair, garage, outhouse or other
appurtenance of such premises.
(4) Paragraph (1) does not apply to any person who is homeless.

The above is the recently drafted section on "movement" from the Coronavirus Act 2020.  Some of its terms are very loosely defined if at all.  An enterprising reporter a couple of days ago brought to light the first case of somebody appearing in court allegedly in breach of the regulations. A factual report is available here.  Some inferences can be made from that report.  The level of fine indicates that it is unlikely the defendant actually appeared in court.  Considering the very short time between the legislation being in effect and the alleged offence having taken place it is almost certain a summons was not served.  From various sources it is fair to assume that the court was presided over by a District Judge(MC) and not a bench of lay magistrates. Certain very disturbing questions arise from this matter. In order for a case to proceed to court the Crown Prosecution Service must in essence believe there is more than a 50% chance that the prosecution will be successful, i.e. that a guilty verdict will result and secondly that bringing it to court is in the public interest.  In actual fact that means that this new legislation under which the police charged the defendant  was read carefully by a senior prosecutor and that the two requirements as above were fulfilled.  The CPS is supposed to be independent of government.  If we are to believe that there was no pressure or "advice" from on high the CPS are to be castigated for initiating a prosecution where there is no actual law being broken. If the CPS, however, succumbed to pressure from lackeys at 10 Downing Street we are in very dangerous territory.  Once the matter was before the judge it would appear that s/he had either been  ignorant of the legislation or had been "persuaded" by the Deputy Justices Clerk or even perhaps the Justices Clerk him or herself to convict. Either way the whole process has the whiff of the latrine about it. 

This legislation went through parliament on the nod.   Lord Chancellor of the United Kingdom, Lord Hailsham, in a Richard Dimbleby Lecture at the BBC in 1976 coined the phrase "elective dictatorship" by which he meant the power of an executive branch of government which could not be constrained by normal parliamentary means.  It would seem,  that judging by recent events which have left this nation without an opposition party worthy of the name owing to its having been taken over by a coven of antisemites and Marxists, the political upheavals since 23rd June 2016 are leading us down a very dark road the end of which is too bleak to view without a certain foreboding. 

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

COVID-19 LOCKDOWN; MAGISTRATES` HEALTH OR DUTIES?


Today and for the foreseeable future magistrates of whom around 85%  are over 50 years old and over half are more than 60 will be rechecking their rotas and wondering whether they should be thinking of their own health and that of their families or whether the social good and obligation  of appearing at court has priority.  Considering all are volunteers it is impossible not to assume that many benches will consist of two magistrates and not the usual three for the next few months.  

Whilst I was active video links were in operation mainly for bail hearings for prisoners on remand.  The expansion of video links has been one of the major initiatives of HMCTS in its "modernisation" programme and has been ruthlessly promulgated by its press relations factory deep in the bowels of Petty France.  It seems, however, that such links are hopelessly bedevilled by system failure often at police stations so demonstrating the inability of defendants to be dealt with by the technology on first appearance.  The result is that an unknown number of defendants is appearing in person despite their exhibiting some or many symptoms of Covid-19. This is placing many court users in jeopardy and is particularly disturbing for magistrates owing to their age profile as mentioned above. In addition the cells in the court buildings have not necessarily been deep cleaned daily despite their occupation by multiple persons and in some cases  their lawyers. 

As I have opined recently it would be reasonable to assume that unlike District Judges(MC) who are salaried civil servants some if not many magistrates will take the path of safety and security and decline to fulfil their rota requirements.  Indeed the silence, as far as is known on this topic, of the so called six magisterial toadies aka leadership magistrates  recently appointed by the MOJ to act as torch bearers for their master is an example of their uselessness as being cast as true representatives of their brethren and confirms this writer`s opinion of their being a fifth column within the magistracy.  Considering Twitter is often the first medium of choice for many important organisations to announce policy and/or news the Magistrates Association is outstanding for its public silence on this situation or perhaps it is communicating only with its dwindling membership. 

Just perhaps there will be some unpredictable results if there is a courts lockdown. Time will tell as it usually does. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

CORONA VIRUS`S LUCKY 4%

Having self isolated for the last week or so and having been retired from the bench for over five years my intimate knowledge of the magistrates courts is at best third hand or at worst via Twitter.  Having now laid my ignorance firmly on the line please allow me to voice a couple of thoughts that seem to require others for the answers.  

Even allowing for the closure of some courts the notification of which is a resounding silence from HMCTS the situation must be untenable for magistrates of whom around 85%  are over 50 years old and over half are more than 60.  Considering all are volunteers it is impossible not to assume that many benches will consist of two magistrates and not the usual three.  Each JP will have considered the health of those with whom s/he is in daily contact such consideration overriding  any obligation to perform their allotted duties. In such circumstances I fail to see that the single justice procedure, of which I have no personal experience its implementation being some time after my retirement, will not be extended temporarily so that courts will still be able to function albeit at a reduced level.  Paradoxically this will be directly opposed to what I think is the government`s ultimate destination; magistrates courts presided over by a single District Judge(MC) but as the saying goes; needs must. 

The second thought that comes to mind is the situation in the prisons. By all accounts it is just a matter of time before we hear of the first corona virus death in a prison and the possibility of a serious riot in a prison is IMHO more likely than not. All of which leads to the MOJ`s probable future announcement and guidance on sentencing at magistrates courts. It is inconceivable that sooner rather than later benches are going to be advised to eliminate custody from the sentencing options open to them. With fewer lawyers in a court to offer mitigation and fewer probation officers to prepare pre sentence reports jail capacities being reduced by the early release of current miscreants will not be jeopardised by the current 4% of offenders being given immediate custodial sentences. That lucky 4% will be the  beneficiaries of a situation which is causing havoc for the rest of us.  

Thursday, 19 March 2020

TO JP OR NOT JP: THAT IS THE QUESTION


Post-nominal letters also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles or designatory letters, are letters placed after a person's name to indicate that the individual holds a position, academic degree, accreditation, office, military decoration, or honour, or is a member of a religious institute or fraternity.

The Lord Chancellor’s Directions to Advisory Committees from which I have copied the following would seem to make the situation re use of said letters perfectly clear:-

"Magistrates
The initials JP may be used on private and business letterheads etc in the same way as academic or professional qualifications. But they should not be used for the furtherance of trade, professional, business or political interests".

I know of at least one magistrate who is located in the West Midlands who flights that direction with impunity despite the powers that be knowing full well of her disregard for the directive. Perhaps there is an underlying cadre within upper judicialdom  which has given the nod to some and not to others because a cursory glance through the many decisions of the  Judicial Conduct Investigations Office over the last decade would reveal those magistrates who have been sanctioned for that "offence".  All of the above leads me to another possible scandal which has apparently escaped widespread  reporting in the MSN or even within the bowels of social media.  Probable new leader of her Majesty`s Opposition and former Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer had his leadership campaign funds boosted by £100,000 donated by a judge no less whose name is Robert Latham who sits as a part-time specialist property court judge  and who is still listed on the books of Doughty Street Chambers in London. I would not be at all surprised if there is not an action against him slowly progressing through the labyrinthine system of judicial complaints procedure. That of course is discounting the consideration that the complaints system can function on the basis of "who do you know" or "I`ll scratch your back if........."  It seems that there are some who seem to place themselves above and beyond the reach of a memo from the Lord Chancellor in 2014 stating that "judicial office holders are expected to refrain from any activity, political or otherwise, which would conflict with their judicial office or be seen to compromise their impartiality".  Perhaps it`s purely the coincidence that Judge Latham was awarded Legal Aid Barrister of the year in 2008 by Tony Blair`s wife after his nomination by none other than the serving DPP at the time Sir Keir Starmer. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

DESCENT INTO AUTHORITARIANISM: AN EARLY WARNING





This post is about taking control.  I posted on 14th June 2018 that the MOJ were seeking to appoint a team of "leadership magistrates". I posted on  23rd July 2018 that the identities of those magistrates named above who had been appointed had been kept secret. Shortly after that July post and ministerial procrastination their names were published.  Around the same time the lobbying organisation Transform Justice had made similar comments about the secrecy with which these people had been appointed and the  iniquity of their identities being withheld. And now finally under the camouflage of these government lackeys we have, this week,  the future of the magistracy laid out before us by the Lord Chief Justice.  For ease of use I have copied the document below although the format has had to  be altered. The highlights are mine. 

 Foreword by the 
Lord Chief Justice


The Magistracy is at the core of the judicial system. It has 
been at the forefront of the delivery of justice across England 
and Wales for over 650 years. In 2018, I approved changes to 
the leadership structure and governance of the Magistracy. 
These changes brought its administrative structure into closer 
alignment with the rest of the Judiciary, and began the process 
of embedding the magistracy firmly within the judicial family.

The key purpose of the Magistrates Leadership Executive 
(MLE) is to support the governance of magistrates’ courts and represent the interests of the magistracy. Its initial task was to develop the first national strategy for the Magistracy. This strategy builds upon the governance structures and continues to develop the senior judiciarys plans for establishing and securing the future of the magistracy. I commend the MLE who led the development of this strategy. Working collaboratively with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Judicial College, Magistrates` Association and involving local leadership magistrates, they have sought to consolidate the position and future of the magistracy with six key priorities. These priorities also reflect the evidence and recommendations of the House of Commons Justice Select Committee Reports on the Role of the Magistracy.

I endorse this national strategy and MLE`s responsibility to support my office and that of the Senior Presiding Judge in the development, leadership, management and support of the Magistracy of England and Wales.



Introduction

Magistrates are responsible for making decisions that significantly affect the lives of the people of England and Wales. It is essential we ensure the magistracy is committed, competent, consistent, and confident in dispensing justice 

The public has the right to expect that magistrates will: 

• be selected against rigorous criteria
• make competent independent judicial decisions in a structured and objective way
• be well trained and supported
• take personal responsibility for ongoing development via peer appraisal
• seek, receive and act on regular feedback, including peer appraisal


This document sets out key objectives that will ensure all the above is achieved.



Strategic themes

Communication

Communication for magistrates will be consistent, clear and purposeful

The magistracy is a diverse community and their engagement and communication needs will vary. The role of the magistrate is an extremely responsible one as it is part of the judicial family upholding the rule of law. It is essential that all magistrates have access to timely, relevant and clearly expressed communications, to engage and carry out their judicial role effectively.

Objectives:

1. E-judiciary email addresses will be used when communicating with magistrates.
2. The engagement of magistrates will be maintained via a structure of regular and relevant communications which avoid duplication.
3. The National Leadership Magistrate will keep magistrates updated through regular newsletters.
4. Magistrates will have access to a digital store of information via e- judiciary and will take responsibility for complying with judicial security IT guidance.
5. Leadership Magistrates will explore and trial the use of social media for positive networking opportunities.




Organisation

The magistracy will operate with clear committed governance and appropriate support Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service manage administration of the justice system through seven regions, including Wales. The magistracy operates through local justice areas as defined by statute. In February 2018, new arrangements were laid down by the Lord Chief Justice for the governance of magistrates` courts business. In October 2018, a new Magistrates Leadership Executive was established.

Objectives:

1. Work towards realising the framework for a single bench for the magistracy, with adequate safeguards and conditions to protect magistrates’ identity and sense of belonging within a local leadership structure.
2. Maintain and develop the relationship between Leadership Judges, Regional Leadership Magistrates, Bench chairs and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service on matters relating to the management and organisation of magistrates’ courts business, facilities and performance, reflecting the need of the Family Court where appropriate.
3. Leadership Magistrates and Bench chairs will be properly supported to fulfil their roles as judicial leaders.
4. Enhance the structure and relationship between the magistrates sitting in the criminal and family courts.
5. Work with the Judicial Office, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service and the Ministry of Justice to monitor the impact of reform and how the magistracy will progress and change in the future. Monitor how that will be effectively communicated and understood by magistrates and ensure they are properly prepared and supported for any changes.
6. Clarify and communicate the respective roles of the Magistrates Leadership Executive and Magistrates Association at political, national and regional levels. They will work together for the successful future of the magistracy.
7. Magistrates will work in a mutually respectful and supportive environment where unnecessary bureaucracy is removed.




Profile

The magistracy will continue to have a strong foundation within the judicial family and its profile will be promoted with confidence

The office of Justice of the Peace has existed since 1361 and holds a unique position within the judicial family. The magistracy represents the largest group of judicial office holders – yet there is limited public understanding about its role.

Objectives:

1. Magistrates will develop and maintain close and regular relationships with the senior judiciary as appropriate at national level (Lord Chief Justice, Senior Presiding Judge, President of the Family Division, Deputy Senior Presiding Judge), regional level (Presiding Judges) and local level (Resident, Circuit and Designated Family Judges).
2. Magistrates will discuss with the senior judiciary matters of mutual relevance, such as community events and the use of social media.
3. Promote the profile of the magistracy to the general public to ensure it is understood and respected, and will make sure that all communities are engaged.
4. Magistrates Leadership Executive will develop appropriate relationships with the media (including television, radio, newspapers and the social media) as appropriate. This will be managed in conjunction with the Judicial Press Office and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service communications teams.
5. Agreement from Ministry of Justice will be sought to establish a national steering group, develop and promote the national profile of the magistracy across England and Wales and thereby aid recruitment, increase diversity and assist advisory committees.




Recruitment

A comprehensive and sustainable plan for recruitment will be created, to increase the number and diversity of applicants, while maintaining high standards of competence

There is a shortage of magistrates and over 50% will reach retirement age within the next 10 years. Judicial Appointments Commission does not have responsibility for the recruitment of the magistracy. This responsibility lies with the 23 non- departmental public bodies known as recruitment advisory committees.

Objectives:

1. An effective judicial deployment protocol will be developed that provides a clear forecast of recruitment needs for at least three years ahead.
2. Regional and Bench leadership teams will support the induction of new magistrates.
3. Magistrates will be able to help promote recruitment campaigns, including direction to the digital recruitment pages.
4. Magistrates will share ideas to support attraction to the role and increase the diversity of new applicants.
5. Bench chairs will encourage exit interviews for all colleagues upon leaving the magistracy to ascertain aspects of the role that may impact upon retention rates.
6. Agreement from Ministry of Justice will be sought to establish a national steering group, develop and promote a national profile for the magistracy across England and Wales and thereby aid recruitment, increase diversity and assist advisory committees.




Training and competence

Magistrates will be trained to ensure they are confident and competent to perform their judicial roles to a high standard

The Lord Chief Justice has statutory responsibility for magistrates training which is delegated to the Judicial College. The Judicial College through its sub-committees, identifies national training needs and incorporates these into the minimum provision of training agreement with Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service. Training, Approvals, Authorisations and Appraisals Committees are obliged to take into account the agreement and have responsibility for identifying magistrates 
training needs and developing a plan to meet them. Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service funds magistrates’ training.

Objectives:

1. Support magistrates to be responsible for their own competence, personal development and preparation for appraisal.
2. Promote available training resources and materials across the Magistracy.
3. The Training Approval Authorisation and Appraisal Committees role in respect of training and appraisal will be strengthened and the communication links with Training Approval Authorisation and Appraisal Committees and Judicial College will be enhanced to ensure the needs of the magistracy will be met.
4. Communication links between Judicial Business Groups, Training Approval Authorisation and Appraisal Committees and the Judicial College will be enhanced, underpinning the Judicial Business Groups’ role in respect of training.
5. The professional accreditation of magistrates’ training and development will be investigated and considered.
6. IT training for magistrates will be included in the minimum provision agreement for all new magistrates and refresher training in line with the guarantee of the Lord Chief Justice and Senior Presiding Judge.
7. Opportunities will be developed, with the agreement of the Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate), to share the experience and skills of the District Bench with the magistracy.
8. Different methods of delivery will continue be explored.
9. A review of the minimum training requirement for the magistracy to facilitate an identified development pathway will be requested.




Judicial Development Pathway

Magistrates will be encouraged and supported to be committed to their roles and 
expand their involvement within the magistracy

When magistrates first join the bench, they do so as a winger in the adult or family court. While some will continue solely in this role, there are a range of opportunities available within in the magistracy.

These include:

• sitting in other jurisdictions
• becoming a Presiding Justice, a mentor, an appraiser, a youth panel member, (deputy) Bench or panel chair
• contributing to committees such as Training Approval Authorisation and Appraisal 
Committees or advisory committees


Objectives:

1. Encourage and support magistrates to take on these additional roles.
2. Vacancies to be advertised transparently and through appropriate channels, with a clear statement of the role, and the skills and experience required and sufficient time for all potential candidates to apply.
3. Appropriate (and where possible accredited) training to be provided for all magistrates, including those taking on additional roles, to enable them to carry out their role effectively.
4. Produce an analysis of the transferable skills gained from carrying out each role so that potential candidates and any employer can see how they would benefit.
5. Explore ways to recognise the contribution made by magistrates, including those who take on additional roles.

I would assume that some whether JPs or not would find nothing unreasonable in most[much] of the above. However the basis of my lack of approbation is the self declared intention of central government to take over each and every stage of the system. There are certainly some aspects of recruitment and training and observations of just what conduct is considered unacceptable for what is a cadre of ordinary citizens leading dual lives that requires deep thought and perhaps revision. But in general this document is just the latest step in a long term desire to ensure the magistrates courts are under full government control and that means controlling individual magistrates. I have highlighted in yellow the number of times reference is made to "leadership magistrates. These people are totally beholden to those who appointed them.  They are in place to further the purpose of the MOJ. I doubt they will have regard to the lack of respect afforded them by their more experienced colleagues but then they are on their way out.  All those newly to be appointed to the bench will have no knowledge and little interest in the history of the last two decades of the magistracy.  Thus they will be more easily led; a task which the Magistrates Association has failed miserably owing to its senior officers over that period being more interested in the  gongs and bling awarded for being lap dogs kowtowing to their masters. This is its reward with references to it in a single instance. The Bench Chairmens` Forum was the only national organisation that could truly be said to have been representative of Joe magistrate. Bench chairmen have three mentions in the document although their functions are likely to be limited to the individual bench from which they were elected.  

This government and its prime minister in particular have not hidden their intention to curb power and/or influence at the very highest levels of the legal system; namely the Supreme Court. The intentions re the country`s lowest courts which account for and will affect about 93% of all appearances will be to direct these courts to the aims of the government of the day for good or ill.  Three magistrates will be inhibited as never previously from deviating from the orders imposed upon them. When these magistrates are prohibited from presiding over trials which will be chaired with or without them as wingers by a single District Judge (MC) as will surely be the case just a few years from now the government will have achieved total control of the legal process. There are many lawyers who would applaud the abolition of lay magistrates. To them I say; beware of what you wish for.  That will be a further step on the ladder of authoritarianism upon which we have begun the slow climb..........or should that be the descent?  


Saturday, 14 March 2020

5 YEARS RETIRED

Tomorrow, the ides of March, is forever noted in history as the day when Julius Caesar met his bloody end. Tomorrow, as in the last five years, will mark the anniversary of my final sitting as a magistrate. I hadn`t quite reached my sell by date but owing to the impending imposition of having to pronounce to all convicted offenders  the terms of the iniquitous Criminal Courts Charge dreamed up by that ministerial court jester failing Grayling I had decided to exit stage left a month or two prematurely.  

Currently there are appeals in the media from the MOJ; "anyone can become a magistrate": as trite a slogan as the weasels in the Petty France basement have yet conceived. This is how a society beset with anxieties that it does not appear to be sufficiently diverse at work, rest or play seeks to anoint itself with a self righteous shower of  the holy oil of equality.  I was appointed in my mid fifties when my secure financial position allowed me to offer a minimum of around two weeks full time on the bench per annum.  It wasn`t long before I realised that especially for chairmen that minimum sitting requirement was totally inadequate for even the most respected colleagues to become truly competent. Today the minimum requirement is unchanged and that is no surprise.  In order for the lay bench to continue in its present limited form the imposition of extra sitting days would stimie the enthusiasm of even the most ambitious JP.  But there is another view that in the long term government would not be sorry to see the demise or at the very least the diminution of the magistracy in its present form. District Judges (MC) being full time civil servants are beholden to said government for putting bread on their tables.  They are less likely to strike a path of even minor deviation from the path set out for them. When my court began having before it some of those charged subsequent to the riots of 2011 advice from the Deputy Justices Clerk was that they were to be sent to the crown court if they were pleading not guilty to an either way charge. No "ifs" and no "buts"; those were our instructions at pre court briefings.  On a particular occasion when I was chairing in such a matter my colleagues and I refused to follow that instruction despite our respected clerk making the official advice public. To protect her from any ramifications when we accepted jurisdiction we expressly exonerated our clerk from any failure to advise us in accordance with her duty.  That, in my opinion, is the value of the magistracy but unfortunately in my humble opinion we are unlikely to have that system of jurisdiction in its current format in another decade. 

It is not unlikely that by this time next year the retirement age for all judicial officers will be raised to 75.  This will mean that the opportunities for increasing the numbers of younger magistrates will be reduced.  In any event to expect an 18 year old, as is the current minimum age for magistrates, to possess the wisdom to sit in judgement on his/her fellow citizens is a fatuous nod to the equally fatuous notion of equality for its own sake. Future historians will look back at the century following the 1960s as one where reason was given up to mob culture: where the louder the voice the greater the influence in law as in other segments of our society.   

Thursday, 12 March 2020

OUTSOURCING BY THE CPS

I don`t remember when I first heard the term "outsourcing" but there are few people now who don`t have a fair notion of what it means.  Although historians will say that the term was first coined in the 1800s during the industrial revolution it was in the 1970s apparently that the term became commonplace.  Some of the advantages of outsourcing are said to be that companies don't have to hire more employees. When outsourced labour is used payment can be made as a self employed contractor thus avoiding many rules applying to an employed workforce and reducing direct employment costs. A price many companies are willing to pay is the lack of control over outsourced workers.  A common description now applied to such workers is that they are employed on zero hour  contracts.  Without them many web based organisations could not exist.  Food and other delivery services and personal taxi services are obvious examples of enterprises which were unimaginable even ten years ago and unobtainable unless one was exceptionally wealthy. However twenty years ago it was unimaginable that 25% of lawyers prosecuting for the CPS would be outsourced. CPS uses the description of such people as "agents" but the change in etymology doesn`t disguise the reality. It is a shameful disgrace. The CPS has many millions of gigabytes of statistics to determine the likely workload to be expected at any quarter but along with many functions within the Ministry of Justice efficiency has been sacrificed to the dogma of austerity since 2010; a dogma which apparently has had its comeuppance in yesterday`s budget. A press release from the weasels in Petty France yesterday attempts to hide the gross inefficiencies of the service as it is currently constituted by subheading a report:-  "The Crown Prosecution Service deploys agents effectively, but needs to provide them with better support". 

Those who are regular users of our courts will have their own opinions. I doubt there will be much contradiction to this post but of course all pertinent comments will be published.  

COPY OF TODAY`S GOVT. E MAIL RE KNIFE & BLADED WEAPON POSSESSION

FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT RECEIVE GOVERNMENT E  MAILS BELOW IS THE BEST AVAILABLE COPY OF THAT PUBLISHED TODAY ON SENTENCING FOR  KNIFE AND BLADED WEAPON POSSESSION. UNFORTUNATELY CERTAIN FEATURES DO NOT COPY eg TABLES AND THE FORMAT IS NOT AS THE ORIGINAL

For any feedback related to the content of this publication, please let us know at statistics.enquiries@justice.gov.uk
Published 12 March 2020
Knife and Offensive Weapon Sentencing Statistics, England and Wales – 2019
Main points
The number of knife and offensive weapon offences dealt with by the Criminal Justice System (CJS) has been increasing since 2014.
In 2019 nearly 22,300 knife and offensive weapon offences were formally dealt with by the CJS, an increase of 3% since 2018. The increase has been driven by possession of an article with a blade or point offences.
The proportion of offenders receiving an immediate custodial sentence for a knife and offensive weapon offence has remained stable for the last three years at around 38%.
Between 2009 and 2016 there was an increase in the proportion of offenders receiving an immediate custodial sentence for a knife and offensive weapon offence, from 23% in 2009 to 35% in 2016, but the trend has been stable over the last three years.
The average length of the custodial sentences received increased from 6.3 months in 2009 to 8.2 months in 2019.
For just under three quarters (71%) of offenders this was their first knife or offensive weapon possession offence
The proportion of offenders for whom this is their first knife or offensive weapon possession offence has been decreasing and is now at its lowest level since 2009 (80%).
The average custodial sentence received by offenders sentenced under section 28 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 was 8.0 months in 2019
This has risen since 2016, the first full year after the legislation was established, where it was 7.1 months.
This publication presents key statistics describing the trends in the number of offenders receiving cautions and convictions for possession of a knife or offensive weapon offence in England and Wales. This also includes offences involving threatening with one of these types of weapons. It should be noted that figures for the latest year have been estimated and should be treated as provisional, please refer to the technical guide for further details.
2
1. Knife and offensive weapon offences overview
The number of knife and offensive weapon offences dealt with by the Criminal
Justice System (CJS) has been increasing since 2014.
In 2019, 22,285 knife and offensive weapon offences were formally dealt with by the
CJS, an increase of 3% since 2018.
Recent police recorded crime figures published by the ONS1 also showed an increase
in the number of knife and offensive weapon offences recorded. In the year ending
March 2013, 15,699 offences were recorded compared with 36,588 in the year ending
September 2019. Furthermore, information published by the Home Office on “Crime
outcomes in England and Wales” show that 51% of these offences resulted in a
charge or police caution in the year ending March 2019.2
Figure 1: Knife and offensive weapon offences by offence type, England and Wales,
annually from 2009 (Source: Table 1a)
0
5
10
15
20
25
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Number of offences (000s)
Year
Possession of an article with a blade or point Possession of an offensive weapon
Threatening with a knife or offensive weapon
Figure 1 shows that this increase is driven by possession of an article with a blade or point
offences. These offences have now increased to over 14,200 offences.
The number of adult offenders convicted or cautioned for a knife or offensive weapon
offence has increased by 3% in the last year while the number of juveniles convicted or
cautioned has increased by 2%.
1https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/crimeinenglandandwales/year
endingjune2019, table A4
2 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/crime-outcomes-in-england-and-wales-2018-to-2019
3
2. Sentencing
The proportion of offenders receiving an immediate custodial sentence for a
knife and offensive weapon offence has remained stable for the last three years
at around 38%
Between 2009 and 2016 there was an increase in the proportion of offenders
receiving an immediate custodial sentence for a knife and offensive weapon offence,
from 23% in 2009 to 35% in 2016, but the trend has been stable over the last three
years.
The average length of the custodial sentences received increased from 6.3 months in
2009 to 8.2 months in 2019.
Figure 2: Knife and offensive weapon offences by disposal type, England and Wales,
annually from 2009 (Source: Table 1)
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Percentage of offences
Year
Caution Absolute / Conditional discharge Fine
Community sentence Suspended sentence Immediate custody
Other disposal
The proportion of offenders receiving immediate custodial sentences has remained stable at
around 38% for the last three years, but has increased since 2009 when 23% received
immediate custodial sentences. In 2019 over 8,000 knife and offensive weapon offences
dealt with resulted in immediate custody compared with nearly 6,000 in 2009. This increase
has been driven by adults, for whom there was a 49% increase in offenders receiving
immediate custody in the period.
The increase in average custodial sentence length between 2009 and 2019 was seen in all
age groups and offence types but particularly for adults, for whom it increased from 6.2
months to 8.2 months, and for possession of blade or point offences, where it increased
from 5.4 months to 7.5 months.
4
3. Offending History
For 71% of offenders this was their first knife or offensive weapon possession
offence
The proportion of offenders for whom this is their first knife or offensive weapon
possession offence has been decreasing and is now at its lowest level since 2009
(80%).
The decrease in the proportion of first time knife and offensive weapon offenders has been
seen for both adults and juveniles, with the proportion for adults decreasing from 77% to
68% between 2009 and 2019 and the proportion for juveniles decreasing from 91% to 83%
over the same period.
Figure 3: Number of previous cautions or convictions for the possession of a knife or
offensive weapon offence for offenders cautioned or convicted for a knife or
offensive weapon offence, England and Wales, annually from 2009 (Source:
Interactive Pivot Table Tool)
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
20
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Number of occasions (000s)
Year
0 Previous convictions/cautions 1 Previous conviction/caution
2 Previous convictions/cautions 3 or more previous convictions/cautions
Figure 3 shows that whilst the proportion of first time offenders for this offence type has
fallen the number of offenders dealt with for their first knife and offensive weapons offence
has remained stable over the last three years.
Since 2014 both the number and proportion of offenders dealt with who had one or more
previous knife and offensive weapons possession offences increased year on year, rising
from 25% or 3,755 occasions to 29% or 5,795 occasions.
5
4. Sentencing under section 28 of the Criminal Justice and Courts
Act (CJCA) 20153
The average custodial sentence received by offenders sentenced under section 28
of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 was 8.0 months in 2019.
This has risen from 2016, the first full year after the legislation was established, where it
was 7.1 months. Over the same time period the average custodial sentence length has
increased from 7.2 to 8.1 months for adults and 5.8 to 7.6 months for 16 and 17 year
olds.
Figure 4: Knife and offensive weapons possession sentencing and cautioning
occasions for adult repeat offenders, by disposal type, 2014 and annually from 2016
(Source: Interactive Pivot Table Tool and Table 7)4
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
2014 2016 2017 2018 2019
Percentage of occasions
Year
Caution Absolute / Conditional Discharge/Fine/Other Community Sentence Suspended Sentence Immediate Custody
Section 28 of the
Criminal Justice and
Courts Act was
introduced in July 2015
Following the commencement of section 28 of the CJCA 2015, a court must impose a
minimum custodial sentence5 on an offender who has been convicted of a second or
subsequent offence involving possession of a knife or offensive weapon. The court must
impose the minimum sentence unless it would not be in the interest of justice to do so.
3 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/2/part/1/crossheading/repeat-offences-involving-offensive-weaponsetc
4 Figures for 2014 have been taken from the Interactive Pivot Table tool while the figures for other years have
been taken from Table 7.
5 At least 6 months for adults and at least 4 months for juveniles aged 16 or 17.
6
In 2014, prior to the introduction of this legislation, half (50%) of adult knife and offensive weapons possession offenders with at least one previous knife and offensive weapons possession offence received an immediate custodial sentence. In 2019 two thirds (66%) of adult offenders sentenced under section 28 of the CJCA 2015 received an immediate custodial sentence. Overall 86% of adult offenders sentenced under section 28 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 in 2019 received some form of custodial sentence, either immediate custody or a suspended sentence, compared to 69% of adult offenders with at least one previous knife and offensive weapons offence in 2014.
For 16 and 17 year olds, in 2019 44% of offenders sentenced under section 28 of the CJCA 2015 received an immediate custodial sentence compared to 28% of knife and offensive weapons possession offenders with at least one previous knife and offensive weapons possession offence in 2014.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

EQUAL TREATMENT FOR PENIS AND VAGINA POSSESSORS

There is a well known adage "Work expands to fill the time available to complete the task" commonly known as  Parkinson`s Law; a proverb coined by its originator   C. Northcote Parkinson.  As a magistrate its application  first became noticeable to me when the first edition of Sentencing Guidelines was published on  13 June 2011. It dealt only with assault and had been in gestation for years.  The Sentencing Council has published four definitive guidelines in the last two years.  In less than a decade from a standing start that Council has revolutionised the government`s thinking on sentencing and imposed more or less a tick box method for all judges and magistrates to follow.  Woe betide any who do not provide acceptable reasons if they deviate from said guidelines. The latest publication is  a new edition of the Equal Treatment Bench Book published today. Ostensibly like its predecessors this is supposed to ensure that nobody is affected by any prejudice consciously or unconsciously held by sentencers. Aside from the assumptions scientifically or unscientifically supposedly held  by the writers this "book"  published by the Judicial College takes 427 pages (click link to pdf) to explain itself and "guide" its readers in their decision making.  It would appear to this old lag that someone somewhere in the bowels of Petty France is working on an AI system to remove any input at all from a fully functioning intellectually gifted human being as are most sentencers.  

The matter of gender has, in recent months, become the topic of war between so called interested parties. All manner of groups have taken to the barricades in support of their professed opinion except that their opinion   has developed into open intellectual and political warfare involving universities, publicly used changing facilities, schools and many other aspects of our society.  Indeed last week my wife who regularly attends a large city centre gym was shocked to see a short haired skinny  flat chested person with absolutely no breasts or mastectomy scars  wearing only men`s shorts walking through the ladies changing room. There being nobody else in the area she was loath to challenge this individual and was too broad minded in her social attitudes to mention this event to the manager.  I was shocked. But when a judge spares a person from jail because being unable to confirm his/her gender an immediate custodial sentence is unwise owing to his possibility of harm if he were sent to a male prison and not having the gender reassignment certificate to send her to a female prison we have gone down Alice`s rabbit hole. Whilst there is no doubt a tiny number of people who in this age as historically have a sexual structure which is ambiguous the degree of political weight attached by some for their own dubious purposes is a nonsense. As is perhaps typical of those of my generation I hold to the opinion that a person with a penis is male and those with vaginas are female. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

COURTS ARE A SIGNPOST

You may be there all day
You need to arrive by the time stated in your notice letter.
The time given in your letter is when the day’s cases start. Your case might not be first so be prepared to wait.
Make any arrangements you need to, for example childcare or taking time off work.

The above "advice" is at the beginning of a document published on 7th February: "Guidance What to expect coming to a court or tribunal".  In other more honest language it might have read, "The courts are so overcrowded owing to the government`s knowingly closing half the country`s magistrates courts, many crown courts and not providing sufficient funds for judges to sit at all the remaining crown courts where facilities are available".

What a state of affairs; it is even worse than the atrocious conditions at many of our hospitals where emergency and accident departments are simply overwhelmed.  At least those who have the foresight and/or means to have private medical insurance can avoid some of the delays in the NHS but nobody can buy his/her way to a scheduled court appearance.   Even just yesterday the civil servant in charge of the Her Majesty`s Courts and Tribunals Service had the affrontary to tweet "I believe passionately that we need a justice system that leads and inspires the world. Our #justice system is an integral part of modern society – our #CourtReform programme is making the system work better by giving people new routes to justice. #JusticeWeek2020" Is this self delusion? She didn`t need to put those words in front of a public which knows it is pure imagination. Was it imposed upon her by the dozens of weasels who constitute one of the largest press offices in Whitehall? Whatever the exact circumstances the courts` system is in disarray  and to quote a former Home Office Secretary of State about that arm of government; "it is not fit for service". 

A truly free democratic society cannot function without a justice system in which each individual has confidence. All parts of that system are in rapid decline including police where our prime minister is now notorious for his spurious use of statistics. Between the clear blue sky of optimism and the clouds of doom we are at a midway stage where the weather forecast is unable to provide confident guidance.  The state of our courts is merely a signpost along the way. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

THE CRIME OF ASSAULT NEEDS TO BE RE-THOUGHT


ASSAULT:- hit, strike, smack, slap

ASSAULT:- a sudden, violent attack; onslaught: an assault on tradition. Law. an unlawful physical attack upon another; an attempt or offer to do violence to another with or without battery as by holding a stone or club in a threatening manner.

A person is guilty of common ASSAULT if they either inflict violence on another person – however slight this might be – or make that person think they are about to be attacked.  If violence is used in a common assault, it is called a “battery” and the perpetrator would be charged with “assault by beating”

ASSAULT on a police constable in execution of his duty: Police Act 1996, s.89 

For as long as I`ve been involved in legal matters I`ve lost count of the number of occasions when representatives of the police have complained that magistrates courts when dealing with offenders convicted of assaulting one of their profession are too lenient in their disposal.  In truth I have some sympathy with that opinion but only at the lowest level of my sympathy meter. 

Some numbers might be useful: Latest statistics for ten months to September last year show that prosecutions for assaults on police and emergency workers totalled  almost twelve thousand of which 9,629 were found guilty. 1,518 were sentenced to immediate custody and 2,137 were fined. In the year ended March 2019 there were 10,399 offences of “assault with injury on a constable” recorded by the police and 20,578 recorded "without injury".  It seems to me that the term "assault" is in itself toO widely drawn.  



Grievous bodily harm with intent is the most serious form of assault charges in the UK and involves a perpetrator who intended to cause serious bodily harm to the victim. This offence may be committed four different ways:  wounding with intent to do GBH;  causing GBH with intent to do so; maliciously wounding with intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension etc. of any person; or maliciously causing GBH with intent to resist or prevent lawful apprehension etc. of any person.

Owing to the above definitions there is no way of knowing how many assaults on police are those causing any serious degree of harm beyond perhaps a push in the back or very slight bruising from an attempted kick or a helmet being knocked from the head. A new crime classification for “assault with injury on a constable” was introduced on 1st April 2017. As far as I can determine the definition of what assault constitutes an injury to police is unavailable. 

From my own and others` experiences there are and have been occasions when there has been some surprise on the bench when the charge of assault on a police constable has seemed to be undercharging considering the very serious effects on the victim.  But that also happens when the victim is a civilian and is a result of the CPS being satisfied with a highly likely guilty outcome of the lesser charge vis a vis the less assured outcome were a higher level charge taken to crown court. 

I feel sure that at some time the government will have to re-think the law on this most common of criminal behaviours where the outcome for victims; police and civilian,  psychologically if not physically can be a lifetime of trauma and/or paranoia. . 




Monday, 24 February 2020

EXCEPTIONAL HARDSHIP: A NATIONAL SCANDAL

If there`s one form of decision that got and still gets my magisterial goat it is the apparent ease with which a 12 pointer convicted "totter" can get away with a spurious exceptional hardship argument and avoid a driving ban. Smooth talking lawyers are the courts` equivalent of 1970`s  door to door double glazing salesmen flogging their wares to receptive magistrates who are often thinking "there but for the grace of god go I".  It is a national scandal. I have posted on this topic so often I won`t list the previous but for those interested just type exceptional hardship into the search box. And  to complete the picture read of a single session at Ipswich Magistrates Court last week.