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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.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, 25 March 2019
Friday, 22 March 2019
Friday, 15 March 2019
I retired a short time before Chris (failing) Grayling`s Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 became operational. I just could not bear the thought of having to make the required pronouncement when sentencing. I understand that bench meetings are now history, rotas are centralised digitally and that magistrates are working in what could be described as a HMCTS straitjacket where they are treated as unpaid employees rather than junior members of the judiciary. I fear that the Magistrates Association is partly to blame for this. It is apparent that those at the top of its tree are looking forward to their gongs on retirement as much as a letter of thanks from the Lord Chancellor. Magistrates are now appointed to positions of influence by the MOJ. True representation for magistrates by magistrates is but a memory for those nearing retirement and an alien concept for newcomers. I had almost two decades on the bench. I doubt these newbies will have similar longevity. Increasing numbers of DJs and Deputies are destined IMHO to take over our courts. At the very minimum magistrates will be fortunate to still be sitting as wingers by 2030.
I enjoyed my period on the bench and hope that some of the initiatives I undertook on a local level have not been swamped by central control. My feelings are as mixed as a gin and tonic. The whole tastes better than the sum of the parts.
Thursday, 14 March 2019
Tuesday, 12 March 2019
Thursday, 7 March 2019
From the sample above it is obvious that age restriction rules are arbitrary. Physiologists and psychologists agree that the human brain does not attain complete adult functioning processes until the early twenties. Age and gender related politics have been a cultural phenomenon for twenty years in the West. The latest addition to this mindset is the furore we hear almost every day in one form or another over "trans" people and their so called rights. Even this morning on R4 "Today" there was a proponent on eligibility for such indeterminate people in female Olympic events. I would posit that the virtually universal acclaim for 18 year old magistrates is as much a politically directed socially accepted position as the wish to reinstate the death penalty for treason and the murder of police officers is the direct opposite. Similar arguments, I believe, had much to do with the Brexit argument being lost by those who did most to promote it. "Go with the flow", "be on the right side" and similar tendencies for many people not to disagree with a supposed "mainstream" have put us in this position.
A 22 year old magistrate who has barely finished his induction training gave an interview last week to BBC. I have no idea at all with whom or with what agencies he made contact prior to the event if at all. I have no idea whether he instigated such proceedings or what was sought out by the BBC or any agencies as mentioned above. All I do know that unsurprisingly he messed up. He was quoted quite correctly as saying inter alia, " 'Being a magistrate is challenging, it does test you and your morals. It is just about following your gut instinct,' As soon as critical comments emerged on social media the helping hands of apologists swiftly enveloped him. At the risk of making comments with virtually no detailed knowledge of this man except what has been published I`m surprised that if somebody is accepted by an Appointments Committee his aspirations in life at his age have not led him to a more inspiring place that being a Tesco till operator. I write as one whose father left school at 14 to train as a barber before becoming a British Junior Chess Champion in his late teens and who achieved many social and political positions as befitted his sky high IQ.
My opinion of a necessary requirement for magistrates amongst many others can be summed up in two words, "life experience". I rest my case and hope he and others similar have learned from his error.
Tuesday, 5 March 2019
I don`t know how this compares with other central government departments but on the surface this F.O.I. answer appears to be less than I would have thought although with Failing Grayling doing his stuff at Transport MOJ staff have less hard work to do. They only have to justify excessive closures of magistrates courts, fewer than needed magistrates and judges, elimination of legal aid, excessive trial delays and much else.
Friday, 1 March 2019
Wednesday, 27 February 2019
Prosecutions for road traffic offences have fallen by two thirds since 2010. I doubt that driving standards have improved so much in that time. The only possible explanation is that with fewer police on patrol fewer miscreants have been apprehended. The numbers are here.
The government is totally to blame for the current shortage of magistrates. The number of two person benches is on the rise precisely because of the shortage. But in the true tradition of government obfuscation we are told no statistics are kept on these events. This is ridiculous. It would take but an instant to note these numbers given that every case is associated with the names of those JPs who sat on the occasion(s) in question.
For examples of how the nasally inclined public school accented women in charge of the magistracy are allowed to rant and divert attention from actual problems readers could do worse than spending an hour or so watching the recent meeting of the House of Commons Justice Committee where those three ladies did their best to waffle with members of the committee generally not prepared to push hard.
And finally as someone who was born just a few weeks before the end of World War 2 and whose close family members were active in the fight against the nazis, to discover that the Judicial College has had to prepare and distribute for the judiciary advice on the disturbing rise in antisemitism is of great concern. Comment can be found here. That this virus seems to becoming commonplace amongst the far left in particular is a direct result of the leader of Her Majesty`s Opposition giving tacit support by his silence to those concerned in addition to lying about his own support for those who would welcome and assist in the destruction of Israel and by implication the Jewish population.
A House of Lords answer published five minutes ago is illuminating as being another example of government not collecting simple statistics in case the numbers are detrimental to its probity.
Monday, 25 February 2019
There is no doubt in my mind that it is a matter of "when" and not "if" live TV webcasts of all our courts are common place. These of course would have to be funded by commercial means. The argument most often promulgated against such broadcasting is that the medium would become more significant that the legal process. We are told that witnesses and more importantly barristers would perform for the cameras. Similar arguments were made by opponents to the televising of the House of Commons. With the Supreme Court`s proceedings a regular legal fixture I look forward to the day when I can choose to view the daily happenings at my local courts or indeed any court in England and Wales. The Scots are already part way there. I wouldn`t bet against their more pragmatic legal attitudes leading to trials north of the border to be regularly on our screens within a decade.
Monday, 18 February 2019
Faced with the problem of the Isis teenager from East London telling the media she has no regrets over her actions and expecting public sympathy the current Home Secretary touted by some as a future prime minister with all the resources of his department behind him made public his opinion that he would seek to prevent her from returning to these shores. Presumably he was basing that statement having consulted his permanent secretary and read his own rules as below.
The essence of his opinion did not take into account that a British citizen cannot be made stateless. There is no ambiguity in that fact. And the fact that the teenager in question did not have duel citizenship with rights of another country`s passport should have been apparent to him and his advisors. He now has had to backtrack and accept that if she reaches the UK border she cannot be excluded.
The list above of the Secretaries of State for Justice makes for sorry reading for any sense of continuity or joined up thinking in the department which runs the lives of magistrates. One hour ago the current Secretary issued a statement included in which was a very strong hint that the days of magistrates courts having the power to impose immediate custodial sentences are numbered. This is not surprising to those of us who follow such events. The dumbing down of magistrates themselves will surely follow. If they are allowed to remain on the bench it will be mainly as wingers to District Judges who will be the presiding officials. To those who will say that no government will countenance the costs involved it has been shown that if DJs sit without a qualified legal clerk or with merely a low level clerk such costs will be approximately similar to the sums paid to Justices of the Peace as expenses.
So all those inspired by the advertisements appearing countrywide encouraging applications for the lay bench enjoy the sun whilst it`s shining. It will be dimming before long.