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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

MUSINGS ON TUESDAY (MICRO OR MACRO?)


In most observations there is the micro view and the macro view.  Either viewpoint can be illustrative of an opinion. Following are recent examples of the micro view of what purports to be our justice system in its totality.

Unlike other European countries the United Kingdom has no statute of limitations for any criminal offence except for summary offences (offences tried in the magistrates' court). In these cases criminal proceedings must be brought within 6 months.  

Last week a 74 year old male was jailed after being convicted of multiple charges of sexual abuse against a 14 year old boy between 1976 and 1979. There is no doubt that the victim`s trauma had a lifelong effect. We have no knowledge of the offender`s history; the report of what was a very unusual case is, unfortunately, truncated to say the least except that we know there was no need for a trial as he pleaded guilty.  Understandably the victim`s name is withheld but it might have been useful if the judge`s remarks including presumably the offender`s previous convictions, if any, had been reported. It is my belief that it is becoming essential if the term open justice has any meaning at all that the live televising of courts must be a priority if our society is to continue to be thought of as free and open. 

In complete contrast to the preceding tale it was in 1973 and the following year that 24 trade unionists were arrested five months after a strike and charged with over 200 offences including unlawful assembly, intimidation and affray. Six pickets were also charged with conspiracy to intimidate.  Last month they were exonerated by the Appeal Court.  This is the link in the press report to the judgement.

Can any reader imagine doing a part time unpaid job for 50 years and rising to that occupation`s most senior position?  As a special constable Michael Rogers did just that at West Midlands Constabulary. To him I doff my virtual hat for his service. 

Since this post is about numbers I must conclude with a recent announcement from the City of London Police.  It is the smallest force in the country policing the square mile where the resident population is less than 9,000. It comprises a total workforce of 1,207 including 756 full-time police officers and 451 support staff. Recently it announced that it intended to recruit 40% BAME officers. The current ethnicity breakdown is as below.


When observations are made about the numbers of non white people in any occupation or situation and political capital is made from such declarations voices are heard that there is a racist undertone when BAME people appear to be over or under represented depending on the particular situation or circumstances but when pushed there are inevitably denials of quota systems in selection. According to 2011 census in the City of London there are resident 57.5% White British; 2.4% White Irish; 18.6% Other White; 0.5% White & Black Caribbean; 0.5% White & Black African; 1.5%.  I leave it to readers to ponder the position and ask the inevitable questions.  I would think the answers might pose as many queries as the questions. 

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

FINALLY COMPREHENSIVE MAGISTRATES COURTS REPORTING


There is no doubt that the reporting of the goings on at our magistrates courts has gone into decline.  Previous to the pandemic I suppose that state of affairs could have been described as slow as has been posted here more than once.  I would opine that the situation can  now be described as dead slow.  I feel it is only a matter of time before we reach that next and final stage where I hope live televising of selected courts will fill the gap.  Meantime two recent cases have caught my eye because they demonstrate two aspects of alleged criminality and the reports are unusually comprehensive although as many observers point out  only those actually in court to hear all the evidence would be in a position to make reasoned comment. Since magistrates courts` proceedings have never been courts of record I would say that that aforementioned criticism is facetious and unhelpful.  

Sacked magistrate Richard Page`s supposed transgressions have been documented here since his unfortunate saga began many years ago.  His religious beliefs triggered anger in certain quarters and his final dismissal by the Appeal Court could be seen by some (many?) as the establishment finally ridding itself of an irritant however fancy the words of that court to justify its decision.  A recent case of religious belief justifying criminal activity although considered minor by its adherents should give us all cause for concern. I believe that there is an underlying belief in this country that Christians are not given as much protection by the criminal justice system  as other religions when the law appears to be broken.  Usually that involves Muslims. Indeed currently there are Muslim demonstrators apparently breaking lock down rules in their quest to have a teacher in Batley sanctioned for having shown his class the infamous cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed published in  the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo which resulted in an orgy of murder by Islamist gunmen in Paris in 2015. It is an open secret no longer that police failed to act when aware of thousands of cases of child sexual grooming mainly by men of Pakistani origin in northern towns over a decade or more. The recent actions of public protest against, paradoxically, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 are providing generous fuel for this government to curb the rights of us all to demonstrate.  If the legislation passes through both Houses, the state and police will be handed new powers to control the length of protests, impose maximum noise levels and prosecute activists for causing serious annoyance, a concept that has not been clearly defined. 

An altogether different matter came before magistrates in Tameside.  The defence that  prohibited amounts of alcohol had been imbibed by the defendant subsequent to an incident of alleged driving over the limit was successful.  This defence is not unusual but rarely successful if the police do their job efficiently. But what is unusual is the reason I have brought it to the attention of a wider readership: it has been very well reported and any opinion based on the report must be respected. Credit is due to MailonLine  or its regional associates for this piece. 

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

PRISON REFORM//A TEST FOR OUR FUTURE SOCIETY


LIBERTY:- the quality or state of being free: a : the power to do as one pleases. b : freedom from physical restraint. c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control. d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges. 

And of course there are other definitions along similar lines of thought but those will suffice for now.  And it is precisely the loss of that liberty as a punishment in itself which is now one of the purposes of imprisonment. It wasn`t always so.  Hard labour or penal servitude was not abolished in this country until 1948.  The prison population of England & Wales quadrupled in size between 1900 and 2017 with around half of this increase taking place since 1990. There are currently around 80,000 convicts in England and Wales that number having reduced by around 6% since the onset of the pandemic. Treatment of those incarcerated has been a political and social hot potato since the days of Elizabeth Fry 1780-1845. Allied with arguments over sentencing,  prison with all its ramifications, no topic is more fiercely debated inside and outside parliament. Prime ministers and home secretaries have seen their reputations rise and fall along their perceived road of squaring the circle of deterrence, punishment, redemption for criminal activity and the sometimes forgotten duty of a government to provide public protection to citizens from those who would harm them physically, financially or as is now a prevalent consideration emotionally. The failure in rehabilitation of those who have fallen by the criminal wayside seems to be endemic but this failure is more caused by government policies and underfunding than failures of individual probation officers of whom there are 14,000 employed in the UK  having doubled in number from 2017 when many left or were made redundant as a result of a failed policy of part privatisation initiated by the most incompetent cabinet minister of modern times Chris (failing) Grayling when he was Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. It is obvious to all but the most hardened proponents of hang and flog on one side and prison is ineffective on the other that radical thinking is required but apparently unacceptable to politicians owing to perceived cost or their chances of re-election. During my time as an active magistrate I visited Pentonville and Wandsworth prisons. Aside from the obvious authority of the warders cf the governors the conditions were appalling and considering this was 20 and 10 years ago respectively when overcrowding was considerably less than at present  the current position is a disgrace for a supposedly enlightened nation.  Prisoners, especially those serving sentences of two to five years must be given the opportunity to learn a trade or to practise their existing skills whilst incarcerated. If they are addicts as so many are they must be weaned off their habit. They must be nourished so that their bodies and minds are as healthy as possible unlike the current situation where, according to a parliamentary question 5 March 2019, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) allocates food budgets to prisons based on £2.02 per prisoner per day which covers the daily prisoner food and beverage requirements. What an indictment for our supposed benevolent society; the aforesaid reformer Elizabeth Fry would turn in her grave at the situation two centuries since her own endeavours. 

I have long posted here of the need for a 21st century form of the Victorian`s workhouse where the basic foundations as listed above could be available for those considered suitable either upon sentence or when it was thought any prisoner had become a suitable case for treatment. (use search box for previous posts)  But of course that would require money; lots of money. Government spending for the foreseeable future will now be regarded in a different light as a result of the enormous sums being spent to soften the impact of the pandemic on our economy.  When a former Tory prime minister is caught lobbying the current chancellor: David Cameron was an adviser to Greensill at the time and it is claimed that he had share options believed to be worth up to tens of millions of pounds, whilst his own chancellor during his premiership, George Osborne,  secured millions in fees based on his inside information and influence after resignation from parliament and the deputy prime  minister of the period became poacher turned gamekeeper for perhaps capitalism`s most egricious example of wealth over principle there is little hope for the current Conservative government or party being the vehicle to prioritise prison reform.  Unfortunately whilst Her Majesty`s main opposition is still the home for antisemites and revolutionary Marxists it is equally obvious that with its current leadership hopes of its obtaining power are slim. And that is how populist opinion begets a populist leader who promises all manner of goodies to all except those minorities who are the cause of our supposed miseries. UKIP founded in 1993 became a slow burning destructive fuse lit when Nigel Farage became its leader. Its influence continues to this day under various aliases.  It has led to greater acceptance of authoritarian thinking both within and without parliament than many thought possible. Prison reform used to be the cry of do gooders and wooly thinkers; not any more.  It is the need for a people and its governors to look inwards into their very souls. It is a test for what  kind of future society they wish for their children and grandchildren.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

THEIR LORDSHIPS` PRICE OF 1000 PIECES OF SILVER


There`s an old adage that a cat can look at a king. In my forays on Twitter I`ve been criticised by the occasional lawyer that I`m only a retired lay magistrate so what do I know.  But there are occasions when that lowly cat can indeed not only look at a king but can offer a loud miewowwww.  The situation in Hong Kong is one of those occasions. The "handover" in 1997 to the Republic of China allowed for certain rights as existed under British rule to be retained for fifty years. The continuation of the legal system was one of those rights. However as is well known to readers China has abrogated these and other rights of HongKongers. The king that this cat is making noises off is no less than a former president of the UK Supreme Court; a certain Lord Neuberger.  It has been announced by the Chinese that he along with another former Supreme Court judge Lord Walker have agreed not only to continue sitting on Hong Kong`s final court of appeal but to extend their contracts for a further three years. This at a time when the ROC has virtually cancelled all freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong citizens by the terms of the 1997 agreement. Their reasoning at least in public is that they can be of service in preserving the rule of law: what facile nonsense.  The law over which they assert their belief in preserving is the law of an authoritarian tyrant which in recent days has been enforced by the edicts specifying that only candidates approved by the Chinese government will be able to stand for elections to the various local government levels of Hong Kong.  In addition the new security law enacted by China means that its approved leader Carrie Lam can send any cases she wishes to be tried in the mainland. That effectively overrules  any case where she considers a result of the Appeal Court would be detrimental to the interests of the ROC.  I wonder perhaps if the pair of lordships have been persuaded by a nice little earner before they pack up their robes in exchange for trowels and wheelbarrows. The top earner, the Chief Justice Court of Final Appeal, earns $366,750 with the next ranking, Permanent Judge Court of Final Appeal and Chief Judge of the High Court, each making $356,550.  The complete pay scale at 2018 is available here. Others who have taken Chinese silver can be found here

It is my very humble feline opinion that the pair of aforementioned high flying legal eagles is dancing like angels on the proverbial pinhead in their argument that by being in place they will offer a final resource to restrain the evil hand of Chinese autocracy.  The Foreign Office, for once under the management of somebody with the cajones to speak for a nation with some remaining principles, is pressing their lordships to rethink their position which provides cover for the ruthless destruction of the  last few democratic rights of the citizens of what was once a showcase of British imperialism turned territory.  The situation for ordinary citizens is so dire that of over 5 million eligible it is thought that 300K will emigrate to the UK and many thousands to Australia and Canada. With their enterprise, energy and capital (if allowed so by China) they would make a similar benefit to this country as those south Asians forced from Uganda in 1972 by the murderous Idi Amin. Unlike a previous wave of immigration from Pakistan of non English speaking sharia observing poorly educated individuals English fluent Chinese Hongkongers would be quickly absorbed into our society assisted by a hard working law abiding highly educated existing Chinese minority of 433,000. Hong Kong`s loss would be UK`s gain.  They see very clearly the problems ahead. Their lordships` superficial excuses echoed by the British chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association that their departure would weaken the court are a permanent stain on the characters and records of two men who were at one time highly honoured for their probity and integrity.  1000 pieces of silver between now and 2024 seems to be the price they have been paid to sully all that has gone before.    

Friday, 12 March 2021

QUOTA:THE FORBIDDEN WORD DIVIDING MAGISTRATES AND SOCIETY


In many parts of our daily lives merit seems to have been thrown out of the window, overboard or left behind; whatever metaphor suits your style. Many major decisions on myriad areas of our lives are based on identity politics, levelling up (or down), anti this or anti that or dare it be said, quotas the term that hides in shame from being discovered as the truth to defy another oft quoted term; privilege and increasingly often white privilege. In some activities it is at a risk of being denounced as racialist or being a racist that defines an individual. Observing that in so many fictional crime series on TV the police officer in charge is female will bring forth the accusation of misogyny or worse still if that character is played by a black actor. Remarking that many TV commercials seem to be using black or ethnic minority actors far in excess of the 13% of the population that is BAME risks outright abuse or worse. Whatever the sins of past omission the luvvies and the industries around them are all wearing a coat of a single colour; coffee coloured.  And that is how such a woman of colour can make such awful accusations with absolutely no evidence and be revered as a new Harriet Tubman or Rosa Parks; women whose like are with us fleetingly but whose legacies will live as long or longer than Joan of Arc`s. 

The remaining "ist" which the English language so simply allows us to convert a noun to an adjective is ageist  which is increasingly  added to the pejorative vocabularies of those who  would seek to impose equality of outcome upon us all where what is so often lacking and is vitally required is equality of opportunity.   When it comes to the institution of the magistary all those prejudices affecting society as a whole come together under the twin umbrellas of political correctness and identity politics. For an understanding of the latter term I can do no better than quote what was said by  Alex Beresford co presenter and a man of colour when Piers Morgan abruptly left the TV studio during a live discussion:  "For me to do that(to sit on the fence)I would have to strip myself of my identity".  His actions and opinions of Morgan were based solely on his (Beresford`s) skin colour with no consideration of the strength or otherwise of his colleague`s opinions. 

In 2007 the minimum age of appointment of Justice of the Peace was reduced from 27 to 18. The parrotted response of the protagonists of that change was to have the lay bench more representative of the society  over which it sat as fact finders and sentencers.  No consideration was give then or now to the undisputed fact that the human brain and consequently judgement and personality are not fully developed until around the early to mid twenties in the vast majority of people.  Indeed to question that age reduction was to invite opprobrium from many quarters. This week the government has confirmed that  retired magistrates who are now over 70 will be able to return to the bench until they become 75 the revised retirement age for those currently appointed. It is logical that only those on the supplemental list will be eligible.  For further information type supplemental list in search box.  Obviously there will have to be a period of re training and other than the most recently retired I would doubt that a previous presiding magistrate would be allowed once again to take the chair or at least until a full re appraisal validated his/her competence.  This apparent reversal of an ageist policy has been brought about simply because of the lack of the required numbers of JPs able to fill the sitting sessions available.  The Ministry of Justice in its wisdom of closing half the country`s courts thought it could function with around one third of the numbers of magistrates sitting in 2008 with no consideration of their age profile.  The danger is now that currently some appointees are being approved on the basis of the Q word; ie quotas.  This of course is denied by all especially the Magistrates Association which despite its taking cash from myriad organisations still heralds its website as the Independent Voice of Magistrates.  It is now well ensconced in the language of woke with its crowing of its recently established special interest groups. Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Jews and not forgetting Christians  might bleat that they too should have their own special interest groups. Why not further divide Magistrates Association members into more special interests sub groupings?  I`m sure readers will have their own ideas on such. *Below is a statement copied from its website.  Just how does any organisation believe or even consider that highlighting differences in its composition is helpful to bringing about a nation which is inclusive and offering equality of opportunity to all its participants?  It is divisive divisive and divisive. Propagation of such nonsense is the antithesis of a harmonious society. We can only hope that when this generational carbuncle on our development as a caring and homogenous community able to live comfortably with its variations and differences of opinion, skin colour, religion and common goals of harmony is finally exchanged for reason and equal opportunities for all, we are still around to enjoy the fruits.  

*The MA is working to recognise and bring together magistrates who are also members of groups we believe to be underrepresented within both the MA and the magistracy, as a whole. We have formed Special Interest Groups (SIGs) which will allow these members to network and discuss issues specific to them. These are the only groups of this kind that exist for the magistracy.
They exist to: Provide opportunities for magistrates from underrepresented groups to network with their peers across the country;  Generate discourse around the issues affecting magistrates from underrepresented groups (who are members of the MA) and advise, inform and work with MA HQ to address these issues; andTo advise and inform the work of MA HQ with the relevant government bodies on the creation of routes to the recruitment and retention of magistrates from underrepresented groups.  Each group is governed by an elected executive comprising a Chair and two Deputy Chairs.

MA Young Magistrates Special Interest Group
The first of these to be launched was the Young Magistrates Special Interest Group (YMSIG), which comprises members under the age of 40. It was launched in April 2019 and has undertaken a series of successful activities since then. 

MA LGBT+ Group
The MA LGBT+ Group was launched in February 2020. It comprises all MA members who identify as members of the LGBT+ community. Over the next year, the executive is working to ensure: the MA is an inclusive environment where LGBT+ members feel welcomed and represented.   LGBT+ magistrates are fairly represented in the MA and across the magistracy 

MA Magistrates with Disabilities Special Interest Group
The MA Magistrates with Disabilities Special Interest Group (MWD SIG) was launched in August 2020. The executive was elected in September and is currently creating a programme of activities for the next two years.
 

MA Black Asian Minority Ethnic Special Interest Group
The MA Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Special Interest Group (BAME SIG) was launched in November 2020. The executive was elected in December 2020 and is currently creating a programme of activities for the next two years.



Wednesday, 10 March 2021

COURT TV MUST SURELY BE COMING


Watching Prime Minister`s Questions today I couldn`t fail to remember that it was as long ago as 1989 when the House of Commons debates and proceedings were first broadcast live to the great British public. It had taken eleven attempts (all but the last defeated) and 22 years for the necessary legislation to succeed. Yesterday I happened to switch on "Court TV" to witness the live screening of juror number 2 being questioned by defence and prosecuting lawyers in the George Floyd trial preliminaries prior to the opening of the trial in Minneapolis which will be televised live. And to cap it this morning on Twitter as on most other days I read a series of news reports and reporters informing the world of video evidence not being available to report, of a dearth of reporters actually reporting events, of reporters being barred from proceedings and various other reasons why only the headline crimes make news these days and so much lower level crime is thus under reported. Add to the mix that as a result of THAT INTERVIEW more attempts and pressure from MPs and others are being urged to fettle even more the so called freedom of the press that we currently still enjoy. Surely it is only a matter of time for permission from government and the attraction of another source of revenue for broadcasters to allow direct court television in this country? I would envisage this initiative to begin at magistrates court level and progress eventually to crown and appeal court. After all the principle has been established in Scotland and in the live viewing of the Supreme Court. Admittedly this topic has been a bee in my post JP bonnet for some time [search court TV or similar in the search box for previous posts]

As I said; it`s only a matter of time unless our politics drifts too much to the extremes of Left or Right when extremists on both sides will, if true to form and history, have the objective to reduce public awareness of certain events and to increase control of their reporting with the Morning Pravda, Evening Pravda and Sunday Pravda our favourite media.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

FOR RICHARD PAGE EX JP THE END OF THE LINE


The end of the line has come for ex JP Richard Page. His appeal against dismissal has been rejected.  The full sad story before this denouement  is available in my previous posts by putting "Richard Page" in search box. I hope as an atheist that if other magistrates who are god fearing of any other religion apart from Christianity are subject to similar investigation they will be subject to similar sanction.  If an orthodox Jewish JP or a Sharia observant Muslim JP  were to fall foul of the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office and is seen to be treated differently all hell should break loose.  

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

JUSTICE NOT SEEN TO BE DONE


I would assume that most readers here will be familiar with the phrases; "now you see it now you don`t", "what aboutery" in relation to arguments, "tactical deception" and others similar. Whilst individually they might refer to different scenarios they have a common thread which is to deflect and/or to deceive an opposing party into believing that an action physical, verbal,  or military will be opposite to that expected by the onlooker,  debater or enemy. The Ministry of Justice with its public relations and advertising spending hidden from public view is a master of those aforesaid tactics. 


In the last couple of months media have been bombarded with stories of how throttling is to be made a crime, secret justice in the magistrates courts and that rape complainants [often wrongly written and spoken of as "victims"] will be offered opportunity to give evidence at a distance and /or to a court cleared of the public: all this whilst as a result of the deliberate policies during the last decade of slashing the MOJ budget by eg closing half the country`s magistrates courts and effectively squeezing hundreds of lawyers out of the legal aid system. Despite all the propaganda and announcements of how Covid 19 is being overcome the very basis of our system of justice is at breaking point; not at the top end for Russian oligarchs divorcing avaricious wives or a Supreme Court overruling the Appeal Court on parliamentary process or citizens` rights deprived from a fifteen year old groomed by Islamist fanatics to applaud public beheading of innocents but at the bottom end where 1.5 million cases are brought annually and over 100K trials are held. These diversions which have been flagged for attention by the PR weasels in Petty France consist of focussing on female complainants of abuse and the secrecy of the single justice procedure. 

As usual the Victims` Commissioner and women's groups shout loudest that women are in greater need of legal protection from domestic abuse. The purpose is to make non fatal strangulation (throttling) a stand alone offence with a maximum of five years custody.  By any stretch of the imagination such an act is horrific but an argument put forward for the inadequacy of current legislation is that all too often the accused is charged with common assault; a summary offence for which the maximum penalty is six months custody.  It is argued that the current law is inadequate. Reading  the Sentencing Guideline shows that punishment commensurate with the crime is available but if the CPS do not charge according to the seriousness of the offence and continue to undercharge in order to secure conviction offenders will of course cock a snoop at the law.  Despite the gearing of statistics to highlight their arguments and conveniently forgetting the recent examples of false allegations those same vociferous advocates for change wish to ban attendance in the public gallery when complainants give their evidence in rape trials perhaps the most difficult of offences to prove beyond a reasonable doubt owing to a common mutually pleasurable and legal activity being undermined by one party, usually female, making accusations of force by the other participant.  The watchword of justice being SEEN to be done is conveniently overlooked or considered obsolete. 

Nowhere has justice by stealth crept up on us more steadily than in what`s known as the single justice procedure.  Incredibly this blot on the legal landscape has been endorsed by most magistrates and the Magistrates Association. Originally intended for common offences where custody is not an option eg non payment of TV license, low level motoring offences or non payment of transport fares etc  and personal appearance by the defendant is not required it has developed to a situation where charges such as assault can be laid before a single justice. In the nine months to last September almost 400K  people have been prosecuted of which 70% offered no plea and so were convicted and fined. Since the epidemic thousands of fines have been issued through this process under Coronavirus Act and allied regulations. Hundreds and possibly thousands to be investigated of these cases were wrongly prosecuted.  Those at the sharp end of these injustices were likely to have been at the lower end of the socio economic spectrum. This is justice Chinese style where 99% of cases result in conviction. It has no place in England and at least its format should be reviewed.  But be in no doubt the toads of Petty France have many more avenues to divert critics` prying eyes from what is really happening in our courts.  

Thursday, 25 February 2021

WHEN IN ROME? MACCLESFIELD? DO AS THE TURKISH


It is of no great surprise when visual media covering visits of female  royalty or lesser supposed personalities or leaders to middle eastern countries publish images of said visitors dressed in such a manner that we are told they are paying respect to the mores of those host countries.  These outward manifestations of "respect" would often include the wearing of head coverings of a form associated with the Muslim religion and or trousers when that form of dress would be unusual in a western setting.  Most observers would not in any way offer criticism.  For mere mortals visiting such countries following local modesty rules is more than just out of politeness or respect it is an absolute necessity to avoid falling foul of local gendarmerie and a possible jail sentence or forced deportation. For visitors to this country or immigrants the British and especially Londoners are and have always been tolerant to  seeing people attired in all manner of national costumes from the lavish colours of the silk dresses of Nigerians to the burka of Afghans and others.  In similar fashion shisha cafes, almost unknown in Britain 20 years ago, are now commonplace in many towns and cities. Provided they are open in line with current regulations and the substance smoked is only tobacco they provide a new experience for us and a sense of home for the mainly Turkish and middle eastern proprietors and their immigrant countrymen. The essence of British hospitality to newcomers is an expectation that they respect are laws but fearful of accusations of racism many organisations have for too long failed in their duties to call a spade a spade when faced with clear examples of law breaking.  Perhaps the most atrocious of such cases was the cover up of Pakistan heritage men grooming, exploiting, abusing and raping under age girls mainly but not exclusively in northern England. Similar offences by high profile wealthy Arab visitors have been reported for years. Currently a billionaire Arab potentate and friend of the Queen is suspected of causing harm or worse to his daughter. At the lower end of the financial scale there are major concerns that immigrants of Pakistani origin and their families are involved in forced marriage; an offence that was enacted purely as a result of those practices which were common in their countries of origin. The old adage "when in Rome do as the Romans" is particularly applicable to foster harmony between a home population and immigrants.  And that brings me to the disturbing outcome of a case where a few days ago a Turkish chef was cleared of sexual assault of a teenage waitress on the basis of his claim, accepted at Stockport magistrates court, that in his native country it would be considered acceptable behaviour.  A comprehensive court report from World News can be accessed here although the case was widely reported in many other media outlets. 

A case like this will do more to encourage the true racists in this country than all the taking the knee at football matches. Left wing comment has been almost non existent.  Our laws are there to provide justice for all without fear or favour.  In simple terms that means that every case is decided by a single standard. Allowing this defendant to be acquitted is an injustice not only to the complainant but to us all. Thousands who read of this matter will have their faith in our system of justice further eroded. Thousands more will have their hatred for those they consider unwanted  foreigners in this country enhanced. I will conclude by posting below the final few paragraphs of the report. 



Tuesday, 23 February 2021

A SNAPSHOT OF BRITISH JUSTICE 2021 STYLE


Being retired from any job allows time for some introspection.  As a retired magistrate who has enjoyed sharing his opinions since 2009 this freedom has offered me opportunities to muse on matters of national importance and occasionally to comment [criticise?] on real time happenings at magistrates courts.  Today`s effort is one of those times.

I was active when dedicated domestic violence courses became compulsory for any JP who sat or wished to sit in those courts. I recollect at the time that the providers were heavily dependent on statistics from USA and very much dedicated to male on female violations. I would imagine that such courses have been modified since then.  However a recent case at Grays Magistrates Court caught my eye. As bad a case it is possible to be heard outside the crown court. Indeed from the report it seems it was undercharged resulting in a suspended custodial sentence for the offender.  Readers can access the matter here and it is refreshing to note the detail often omitted these days from the local print media.  In my opinion that offender should have been charged at a higher level where the crown court would pass judgement.  Perhaps pressures on court schedules and Covid -19 have reared their delaying heads. The refusal of compensation defies belief. 

As a Twitter user I have tweeted not so long ago on the public silence of the Magistrates Association concerning its members` court experiences in the light of the pandemic.  Narey a response from it nor the dozens of JPs linked to that outlet. The staff at Highbury Magistrates Court who are in the thick of possible infection are contemplating strike action.  I wish them well. 

Peterborough Magistrates Court was the scene last week where a dangerously drunk driver was sentenced to custody suspended. I am more convinced as the years roll on that sentences of that ilk for offenders such as he are distorting our communal sense of justice to appease left wing activists and the financial restraints of the Ministry of Justice. This particular offender was driving a lethal weapon in such an inebriated state it was akin to conspiracy to murder.  When a population begins to think that criminals can "get away with it" there are social problems ahead. 

On a more positive note to end my rant the user of an illegally transferred Blue Badge recently received her just desserts at Medway Magistrates Court.  For too long these offences were treated too lightly. Justice must be seen to be done and her punishment was just that. 

 Some senior police officers have the foresight, intellect and sensibilities of a mouse. Readers might remember about ten years ago many police forces placed cardboard effigies of a constable   in town centres, supposedly as a deterrent against criminal activity, to a chorus of public derision. It seems that a decade later the top echelons of some police forces are still finding ways to demonstrate their incompetence. A headline today (accessible below) which for me at least sums up so much that is woeful when discussing in general our system of justice from apprehending offenders to their being sentenced. That aforementioned headline was caused by police in Liverpool telling the public by means of large posters that being offensive was illegal. Will they ever learn? 

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

RETIRED JP STILL BEHOLDEN TO JCIO


 I sat on an inner city bench for seventeen years until enforced retirement allowed me to retain use of the J.P. suffix and automatically relegated me to the "supplemental list" where a very few magisterial functions were still within my authority. The most significant of those  is the authority to countersign  passport applications as  countersignatories must either work in (*or be retired from) a recognised profession and Justice of the Peace is a recognised profession. Those on the supplemental list or retired magistrates cannot:-

 Sit in a magistrates’ court to adjudicate on cases

Sign summonses or warrants, including search warrants

Be a member of any committee or any other body as a magistrate

Take part in the election of chairman or deputy chairman of any bench

Attend any formal or business meeting of their former bench

Countersign an application for a shotgun or firearms licence

Sign off statutory declarations

There is, however, a price to be paid for those who wish to retain the kudos of having those two letters after their name; namely the holder will still be subject to the rules and guidelines to which serving magistrates are subject. Mr Karl McCartney JP MP was first elected at the 2010 general election and represented the constituency until he was defeated by Labour's Karen Lee at the 2017 general election. He was re-elected as a Tory in the 2019 general election and is on the supplemental list. He also exhibits attitudes of an arrogant right wing Tory. In January 2021 the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office issued a formal warning to McCartney for referring to his role as a Magistrate in election material despite having been reprimanded for this previously. This reprimand was "for allowing his judicial status to be referred to on a political leaflet in a way that gave the appearance of seeking to gain advantage which is contrary to guidance that is intended to protect judicial independence and impartiality." In reaching their decision, the JCIO noted that McCartney had previously received a disciplinary sanction for similar behaviour and was unwilling to acknowledge the inappropriateness of his actions. [my bold]

On 29th October 2020 a spokesperson from the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office said:“The  Lord  Chancellor  and  Mrs  Justice  Cheema-Grubb  DBE,  on  behalf  of  the  Lord Chief  Justice,  have  issued  Dr  Nigel  Molden  JP,  a  magistrate  on  the  Supplemental List,[my bold]  with a formal warning following a careless driving conviction and the accrual of six  penalty  points  on  his  driving  licence.  In  considering  this  matter,  the  Lord Chancellor  and  Lord  Chief  Justice noted  his  continuing  denial of  any  wrong  doing and also took into account Dr Molden’s timely disclosure to his Bench Chair, and his otherwise clean driving and disciplinary records."

These are but two recent examples of retired magistrates falling foul of the almighty JCIO.  Considering that many thousand magistrates will retire in the next decade they ought to think carefully at that point when they receive a letter such as the one I received copied below. No request was made by me to join the list.


What that letter and enclosure did not spell out was an option to opt out of joining the supplemental list and the fact that being on it placed upon the retired magistrate exactly the same obligations and guidelines as existed when active on the bench. .  Perhaps my advice to magistrates about to retire is that if you do not want your personal activities to come under the long reach of the JCIO you must ask to be removed.   As for me; I did not give a thought to the supplemental list and its obligations until as a result of a blog post 23/7/2019 I was threatened with a full on investigation.



*
I decided that rather than months of arguing and stress to retain those two letters JP and my right to freedom of expression  I resigned from the supplemental list thus ending the inquiry.  But going back to the second sentence of this post I am still a retired magistrate and I suppose that my signature to sign a passport application on that basis will not lead to a death by a thousand cuts from the London Advisory Conduct Committee or its standard bearer Mrs Featherstonhaugh. 


Tuesday, 9 February 2021

MAGISTRATES COURTS MUST BECOME MORE INQUISITORIAL



There is no doubt that many previously ignored facets of life in the European Union previously taken for granted are now being compared to life in a supposedly independent UK. Extremists on both sides of the Brexit argument are still raising their voices metaphorically and in real time to offer their opinions many of which are bereft of sensible argument but complete with invective and ever more strident haranguing of the perceived opposition. One aspect central to our collective lives continues to underperform using Covid 19 as a convenient excuse; our criminal justice system. In the week ending 20 September 2020, there were 509,347 cases outstanding in the magistrates' courts   and  at the end of Q3 2020 there were 50,918 outstanding cases at the Crown Court, an increase of 44% on Q3 2019 (35,478 cases). This is the highest level of outstanding cases seen since the end of 2015 and continues the consistent increases seen since Q1 2019.  I have yet to read anywhere of any significant member of the legal profession daring to suggest that judicial systems in continental Europe might offer increased efficiency compared to the concept of common law underlying English law. Perhaps there really is a belief that English is best;  I don`t know but what I do know after watching again many series of the wonderful French series "Spiral" is that the case for magistrates in England taking on a more inquisitorial role is in my humble opinion one that cannot be merely dismissed as unEnglish. 

In France and other jurisdictions where the justice system is inquisitorial as opposed to the adversarial system in the U.K. there is an office of investigating magistrate. And as it says on the tin that person takes an active role in the investigation and court proceedings. Judges and J.P.s take an impartial role in the presentation of a criminal case and its defence. There are, however, occasions in a magistrates` court where intervention is not just allowed but necessary in the interests of justice. Frequent examples which come to mind are where a witness is being badgered by a lawyer prosecuting or defending or where the lawyer is insensitive to a witness`s ability to comprehend a convoluted question whether that lawyer`s insensitivity is by accident or design. The cause for intervention in such cases is relatively simple to make. But matters are never always so straight forward.

Many non Crown Prosecution Service offenders are brought to a magistrates` court. Examples are RSPCA, TV licensing, transport companies [fare dodgers], trading standards [fly tipping, health and safety etc ] , local authorities [council tax defaulters] etc etc

I can recollect a case some years ago when I was sitting on one such prosecution. The prosecutor in her opening told us that her only witness, the investigating official, would read his five page statement and she would be relying on a bundle of over 200 pages as her evidence. We duly heard the official and a brief glance at the bundle showed that in addition to the official`s statement it was divided into three complainants` statements, the defendant’s interview, documents directly connecting the offender with the alleged offences and his various bank accounts over the specified period. Defence council had little upon which he could defend his client during cross examination of the official. His client who was not the sharpest knife in the drawer duly did his best under cross examination which was not approaching a Perry Mason standard. We retired to read the bundle telling those involved that we might have some questions for the defendant.

Much of the material in the bundle was totally unhelpful and unnecessary. We had to hunt for the pearls that the prosecutor had told us would be the basis for her case. We duly did find documents which appeared to link the defendant with the offence. Our concern was that they although they had been exhibited neither lawyer had pin pointed them. We decided that in the interests of justice we could not adjudicate without further knowledge and more answers. Thus we questioned the defendant in detail overruling objections from his counsel. He was found guilty. At the post court review our legal adviser anticipating the tone of the discussion assured us that our inquisitorial approach was, in this particular case, perfectly lawful. He agreed that the prosecutor was failing in her duty when she attempted to rely on a huge bundle without further probing. He added that he would have intervened if we had been overstepping the mark.

With ever increasing numbers of defendants denied legal aid and without the means to employ representation it is my belief that magistrates and District Judges must be allowed discretion to undertake an inquisitorial  role to ensure that a defendant is assured of justice not being denied owing to their  inability or lack of confidence in presenting their opinion in the witness box.  There will be many who will vociferously protest that the level playing field and equality of arms argument must not be questioned but those very terms are now nothing but fond memories. Indeed they are a misrepresentation of the current state of activity in the magistrates courts system. They are an anachronism. Even before my last court sitting almost six years ago it was apparent that many defendants were considering guilty pleas simply because of convenience in getting the matter over with. Pressures for such equivocal pleas have increased greatly since then although I know of no research to prove my point. A most enlightening article on the consideration of early guilty pleas and ancillary information The Supervision of Guilty Pleas by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales – Workable Relationships and Tragic Choices is available here

Chairmanship of a magistrates` bench is an art not a science although the drafters of the so called competences required and the resultant appraisals techniques would seem to argue otherwise. J.P.s` awareness of when sensitive questioning of a witness is useful is not in the instruction manual but it is in the interests of justice especially in this era of unrepresented defendants.  The adversarial system can only offer confidence in the concept of justice for all being done and being seen to be done when there is a true equality of arms.  When boxing enthusiasts attend a fight they do not expect a flyweight to be matched with a middleweight.  In the magistrates court where the stakes are sometimes life changing such mismatches are an every day occurrence.  There must be change.   


Thursday, 4 February 2021

CHIEFS AND INDIANS: TOO MANY OR TOO FEW?


I was never a management consultant or worked in HR but I was an employer who had at his maximum ten employees for whom I had to provide a safe, secure well organised working environment. Like any employer it was my responsibility to organise these people so that they and the  business put their best endeavours forward for all to prosper.  That included recognising and maximising the best abilities of each person.  Even in such a small workforce the recognition in title and remuneration of outstanding talent was essential. In large national organisations huge departments of specialists are employed to do much the same and none more so than in police forces. To that end the 2020 ratio of serving officers was as below:-

5.39 constables/sergeant

3.33 sergeants/inspector

3.26 inspectors/chief inspector

1.85 chief inspectors/superintendent

2.97 superintendents/chief superintendent

1.36 chief superintendents/chief officer 

These ratios are based on the chart below.


 

Whether or not these numbers are as efficient for purpose as they could or should be is beyond my comprehension but they are fact. In 2013 the figures were as below:-

4.86 constables/sergeant

3.26 sergeants/inspector

3.49 inspectors/chief inspector

2.2 chief inspectors/superintendent

2.24 superintendents/chief superintendent

1.82 chief superintendents/ACPO rank

For previous posts on this topic type "statistics police ranks" in the search box.



Tuesday, 2 February 2021

IS 99% CONVICTION RATE EVER JUSTIFIED?


It is not uncommon when reading legal reports from China that their conviction rate is around 99%. Most observers will remark that such a conviction rate reeks of a totalitarian system of government where the courts and the legal system are but servants of said government and that as a system of so called justice it fails miserably to reach even the lowest benchmarks regarded as indicative of a system which is free and open for all regardless of rank or position. In other words in plain English defendants are more or less rubber stamped as guilty even in the rare circumstances where they can offer a defence in the real meaning of that word as it applies we hope in this country. At the other end of the outcome scale there is a an apparent never ending complaint in this country that cases of rape are inefficiently investigated by police, undercharged by CPS and too often conclude with findings of not guilty. The question for all involved within the legal system is quite simply what is the "correct" rate of conviction: a rate which reflects the definition we place on guilt having been established beyond reasonable doubt.



There are lawyers who argue that magistrates courts should be presided over only by District Judges (MC) on the basis presumably that their clients would receive a fairer hearing and be less likely to be convicted than by a bench of three magistrates. As an aside those self same lawyers would be aghast if a single crown court judge replaced the jury system of twelve. There are, however, some statistics which make interesting reading regarding summary motoring offences where almost everyone has a vested interest in avoiding conviction and which are generally decided by a magistrates bench. In the 12 months ending June 2020 480,203 defendants were tried against of whom 474,039 were convicted; a rate of 98.7%. A complete extract from the appropriate statistics table is copied above.

An interesting comparison can be made with figures newly released on single justice procedures with speeding charges based upon detection by camera devices for the nine months ended September 2020 during which 68,905 were progressed resulting in 43% pleading guilty. Not guilty pleas were about 1%. Presumably the  remainder chose not to attend although the figures do not make it clear if non attendees were included in the 43% nor the numbers sent for trial of the 1%. My personal assumption is that the outstanding 56% were found guilty by the single justice based upon paper evidence which was unopposed.  

The only conclusion seems to be that a conviction rate of around 99% can be justified as a true reflection of a fair justice system but only in very precise circumstances.  To use a conviction rate alone to further a legal argument without other considerations is unjustified (pun intended). 

Thursday, 28 January 2021

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE IS JUST A SHADOW


I doubt there is a single reader of this blog who is unaware of the drastic reduction in legal aid for those attending magistrates courts.  In 2019/20 the criminal legal aid budget in England and Wales was £897 million  compared with £896 million in the previous year. Criminal legal aid peaked in 2003/04 at over £2.6 billion.  Between 2005/06 and the most recent financial year it has fallen by £676 million in real terms. Civil legal aid has also been cut since 2005/06. After peaking at £1.2 billion in 2010/11 it fell to just £651 million by 2015/16. 

Not only does financial strangling of the legal aid availability reduce the numbers of lawyers in court it imposes a higher standard of performance from presiding justices to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done.  It has led to a reduction of the numbers of lawyers financially able to undertake work as duty solicitor.  The biggest cuts were introduced in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 but provision has been stripped away for decades. Hourly rates for legal aid haven’t changed in 20 years.  And to counter this appalling lack of resource for those who most need it the weasels in Petty France last week announced that the Ministry of Justice has most generously provided £3.1 million  to a range of regional and local services. This miniscule amount is not to pay for legal aid per se but to various groups and organisations such as advice centres. Once again the MOJ and its overfunded press and PR department is attempting to mislead a public that will not care a figg until they are faced with a court appearance. What was truly the finest justice system in the world is now not even a poor shadow of its former self. Shame on all involved from Tony Blair to Boris Johnson; from Lord Irvine to Robert Buckland.  

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

TV LICENSE EVASION TO REMAIN A CRIMINAL OFFENCE


Will they? won`t they? push me, pull me to the top of the hill and push me pull me down again.  These remarks seem to be the underlying propelling thrusts of the government`s policy on BBC TV licensing.  Literally for years Tory governments have been hinting that the bloated BBC cannot be reliant on the funding (read taxes)  provided by every household which receives live television broadcasting. This news was greeted      positively by many outside the family of luvvies who derive enormous proportions of their income and wealth from those who are unable to feed their families even with the support of social security payments. More recently the current occupants of political power have hinted strongly that failure to pay the license fee will be decriminalised; ie such charges would be brought through county court and not the magistrates court where currently around 130K such cases are heard annually which works out at about 15 per week per court. Many if not all these alleged offenders` cases are decided through the single justice procedure.    There are about 26 million TV license payers ie about 0.50% of TV viewers` households have been found guilty of evasion. Along with the vast majority of my former colleagues I was none too happy with the situation. Invariably the poorest and/or recently arrived immigrants seemed to form the bulk of offenders although it was not unusual to discover that a subscription TV service was being paid for when the license was not. Those appearing before us were distressed to discover that that they had committed a criminal offence.  License inquiry agents tended to hold the first person to open the front door of a suspected premises to be the person responsible for the offence. 

Most members of the public do not know that they are under no obligation to open the door nor allow entrance to their property to an inquiry agent. I recall a case where that unlucky door opening first person who appeared before me and my colleagues was a visiting American Harvard law graduate who now as a result has a criminal record in the UK.  When my son went to university I advised him not to overlook requiring a license for his flat`s TV and never to open the door to an inquiry agent. 

The BBC having spent over a £1,000,000 on outside lawyers notwithstanding their staff lawyers` wages  argued inter alia that decriminalisation would cut their revenues by £300 million annually.  And to indicate their humanity emphasised that were the offence to be decriminalised county courts cannot take offenders` means into consideration when finding for the plaintiff who in this case would be the BBC. In England in 2018  the majority of the few jailed not for neglecting to pay for a license but for wilful neglect or  culpable refusal to pay the resulting fine were women who make up almost 70 per cent of those prosecuted.  Indeed 30% of all criminal prosecutions against women in 2017 were for evasion of the TV licence. 

But all that flag flying of the last five years or more has gone with the wind. Ministers have decided not to end the criminal prosecution of evaders and this at a time when the only companionship for many home ensconced children as well as adults is their television with its five basic channels plus those free to air. The recent government statement is available here

The free marketeers on the extreme right who have championed Brexit and rally against lockdown seem to have lost this one. But so have the government by marching up the hill only to march down again behaving like a simpleton who agrees with the last argument fed to him. So poorer over 75s will still have exemption from the TV tax but not those 65-75 year olds of similar financial status. It is one thing for a government to listen to its citizens but it is another to vacillate over so many of the decisions that must be made. That leads to general calls for decisive action in a myriad of situations.  It is but an early event in the sequence which leads to demands for strong action and inevitably to a strong man to provide leadership to take that strong action.  And we can guess where that leads..........can`t we?

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

ARE THEY GETTING AWAY WITH IT?


Regular readers will be familiar with my gripes on exceptional hardship.  New readers might want to put those words into the search box for further reading. I have also opined on the pseudo secretive newish process of the single justice procedure. A recent case which has been reported here appears to involve the exceptional hardship defence against driving disqualification. What is not reported is whether or not the offender was represented or whether proof re his application was requested or supplied. Indeed when I was active (before the SJP) exceptional hardship application was usually made at a date announced after the original award of points that put a totter over the top. 

Perhaps somewhere there is information that would clarify in general situations as above. It is too easy to believe that as the "Sun" journalist might write, "Too many offenders are getting away with it."

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

JUSTICE DOWN A DARK ALLEY


There are so many so called "initiatives" brought about by government departments that only those with intimate knowledge of the associated areas of activity can offer substantive opinions.  The Ministry of Justice with its enormous PR department certainly is not lacking in efforts along those lines. Only since its pilot scheme ended a couple of weeks ago on December 31st has it become public knowledge that a scheme by which offenders without an admission of guilt can avoid prosecution and a possible criminal record by agreeing to such conditions as rehabilitation or paying compensation to "alleged" victims. According to the Policy Evaluation Research Unit just Scotland Yard and West Yorkshire Constabulary had been chosen as pilots. The results must have been truly impressive since within two weeks of the scheme`s ending it has been expanded and  that  apparently placing those chosen offenders into the scheme was justified by "senior police officers" in the now revealed participating eight police forces in England and Wales.  This has to be PR nonsense.  Any such study must require many hundreds of hours of analysis and with the best resources could not have been through all the levels of a rigorous examination mathematically, socially and politically to have become operational unless such examination has been foreshortened or the outcome was politically pre-determined.  Nevertheless in London 175 alleged offenders have been placed on the scheme and 74 in West Yorkshire. Offences include criminal damage and assault for which the maximum sentences are six months custody. There has been to my knowledge no information forthcoming on those cases regarding whether they were eg first offences, subsequent to input from victims or ethnicity of offenders but from reading the above report it would appear that racial bias alleged or otherwise had more than a marginal effect on conclusions. 

A spokesperson from the MOJ has been quoted as follows, "a key feature is that an admission of guilt is not necessary", but added that prosecution was still on the table for those who failed the requirements of their rehabilitation programmes. I make no apology for belonging to a generation that believes justice must not only be done but be seen to be done.  If that makes me an outcast amongst current legal thinkers and practitioners; so be it.  But secret justice lives down a very dark alley.  The deeper it becomes the more dangerous for us all and operated by a government that is amongst the most arbitrary in its decision making for many years it is another pointer of how authoritarianism arrives when least expected despite warnings of its nascent emergence. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

BLEAK PROSPECTS IN THE HOUSE


This is a first post of a new year but unfortunately although not unexpectedly once again we are forced to listen to an aspiring warlord of a home secretary telling us how we are going to be kept so much safer in our daily lives by the actions she is undertaking for our protection. Methinks we have heard it all before.  In the last few days she has pledged to use new stronger powers to deport criminals and deter illegal immigration.  Considering the latter proposal it has been apparent for the last year that this country just does not have the naval facilities to combat the illegal flow across the channel and even if it had what actions could it undertake accepting of course that it is against international law to use force lethal or otherwise to stop such people reaching their desired destination. Prevention is often said to be better than cure but even with willing partners in France and Belgium it is impossible for them to police 50 miles from Ostend to Calais 24 hours daily. Knowing that such illegal traffic is directed by criminals,  authorities in all three countries involved have scarcely made any inroads into arresting and convicting those gangs who, by all accounts, are making millions of pounds from their human cargoes. These usually impoverished people consist of some who are fleeing repression in their homelands of Iran, Syria or Africa and the remainder who seek to improve their economic status by coming to Britain. It has been considered that the numbers of unaccompanied young males is indicative of the latter group. But the official numbers by their very source can provide only a fleeting glimpse into the whole problem analyses of which provide great difficulties for those with vastly more knowledge than I. 

On her other assurance to a public which she presumes to be as spectators at a medieval hanging at Tyburn she has outlined plans to make it easier to remove offenders who are subject to custodial sentences of six months.  On this topic I can opine with some personal knowledge. Current policy imparts any person of 17 years or over who does not have the right of abode who is convicted of an offence is liable to a custodial sentence and recommended for deportation by a court which has the power to sentence him.  The fact that a court has decided not to make a recommendation for deportation does not debar the Secretary of State taking such action on the basis that such an offender is non conducive to the public good.  In May 2006 it was recognised by the Labour government that there was a need to prioritise cases by the level of risk that a person posed to the public for those given a 12 month custodial sentence either in one sentence or as an aggregate of sentences over a five year period. That provision, of course, enabled an offender who received two consecutive six month sentences at a magistrates court; infrequent but not unusual, to be subject to deportation. These and other provisions became law under the terms of the UK Borders Act 2007. I recollect in that year my bench, against the advice of our legal advisor at the time, instigating such a process against an East European who had been convicted and sentenced to be within such provisions. After voluminous correspondence it was rejected.  To reduce the required prison sentence from 12 to 6 months for the sanction of deportation to be available the Home Secretary is behaving with a similar  mindset as Nero throwing Christians to the lions. She is offering what she believes is the public demand to deflect much warranted criticism of her own follies. Thus many offenders convicted of low level drug offences, thousands of motoring offences and common assault  could be on her "deport them" wish list not to mention a multitude of other offences tried summarily at magistrates courts.  Considering her recent outbursts against lawyers and political opponents who offer logical criticism in principle and of the logistics involved there is no doubt in my mind that her proposals will meet short thrift unless the current incompetent and overtaxed prime minister decides to use parliamentary dictatorship and his political capital to force through such measures through the House of Commons. 

This is the state we have reached in this country: an inability for many years to provide enough hospital beds and equipment, a myopic money saving effort involved in the closure of half the country`s magistrates courts with the resultant delays, a transport infrastructure in disrepair to be balanced against the spiralling costs of a new railway which is already outmoded, a population of ever increasing child poverty, a miserable housing situation for a large minority who will never be able to buy their own home and so many other public services not fit for purpose.  One does not have to be a member of the Corbyn cult to realise that something is failing in the way in which we are governed.  And as previously mentioned that time honoured method of diverting public criticism is alive and well in this new year as it has been in every year previously; get rid of the foreigners who are the cause of it all. Italy, Germany, Rwanda, China, USA...........  The numbers, methods and enforcement might vary but the underlying motivation is the same.  I`m an optimist but the prospects are bleak. 






Tuesday, 29 December 2020

"SLAINTE MHATH" OR FOR THE NON GAELIC SPEAKER "CHEERS" EXCLUDING THE WEE BEASTIES


 Although I hadn`t planned on posting here until after the new year natural curiosity in checking day to day events which might be of interest overcame my reluctance. 

It would appear that, simple as it appears to me having bought, sold and managed various business projects in my previous life, the notion of HMCTS being able to inform its staff that many black and ethnic minority people attending court do so in a professional capacity and not as defendants is beyond its capabilities. In any normal business or professional environment those individuals responsible for that lack of training and of grievously insulting non white attendees would be severely admonished or sacked subsequent of course to so called HR investigation. There is no doubt in my mind that that organisation is no longer fit for purpose irrespective of all the "good news" put out by its inflated task force of weasels in its PR department.  

Sometimes I just fail to understand the leniency of some magistrates when dealing with a case which clearly requires the maximum sentence available for said offence.  Such was the decision recently at Northampton Magistrates Court when a driver in a 40MPH zone was clocked at over 100MPH.  He was given six penalty points when the maximum for said offending is 56 days disqualification. Perhaps, if he already had points on his license, the thinking? process of the bench was the sword of Damacles approach "next time a ban will be inevitable". The short report leaves questions unanswered.  

At the same court on December 21st the chairman of the bench was castigated by commenters apparently echoed by the reporter for very severe words to an offender who had been released from a mental health institution shortly before he had offended. There is no doubt that governments over the last two decades have brought nothing less than havoc to the treatment of those with mental health problems.  As a society we have accepted the predictable results of such incredibly myopic actions. We have actively allowed millions of our fellow citizens to suffer their agonies unchecked until they appear in a courtroom.  My suggestions here and elsewhere that a modern form of workhouse (use search if interested) be established for particularly vulnerable people have been ridiculed. Current treatments and rules for mentally sick and also those with addictions are not fit for purpose. But like legal aid such matters flow beneath the popularity horizon of most of the population until they are personally involved and government is very happy to let that insularity continue until perhaps major events intervene. 

Finally for those wish an insight into current court statistics access here.  

With many of my generation awaiting a message from their GP to be next in line for you know what I will be content to see in my next Hogmanay with a large glass or two of 12 year old Glenlivet. SlĂ inte Mhath (Pronounced Slanj-a-va)