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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

POLICE & LAW SOCIETY IN JOINT TIRADE AGAINST GOVERNMENT


It seems that the Law Society and senior police officials are getting together to spread the word that  falling numbers of crown court prosecutions are not some statistical accident or an indication that society is becoming more observant of the law. No; the numbers are indicative of fewer police to catch the miscreants in the first place and fewer police to process the cases for the CPS which is not itself directly criticised but as those in the legal world know only too well that organisation having been down sized by more than 10% in funds and  personnel in a decade is not without culpability.  See these press releases of the last few days from DevonLincolnshire, Northamptonshire,  North Wales, and Warwickshire. An obvious PR exercise against austerity but how much did it cost and by whom was it sanctioned?

Monday, 15 October 2018

THIS JUDGE IS A BULLY

I have opined in the past that Justices of the Peace seem to be more harshly treated for alleged transgressions than members of the professional judiciary. The recent case of a judge threatening to jail a 14 year old child if she cried in court whilst her mother was giving evidence is a case in point. HH has been criticised by the Court of Appeal. 

Such flagrant bullying of a minor should not be concluded with just a rap across the legal knuckles. He should be charged with misconduct. If it were a magistrate making those remarks s/he would be on the scrapheap in short order. Whether it is right that part time unpaid lay J.P.s should be dealt with on a different basis from full or part time professional judiciary is another matter to be debated at another time. 

Saturday, 13 October 2018

MAGISTRATES` MINIMUM AGE ON TWITTER POLL

I have recently had a dispute on Twitter on the worthiness of young magistrates cf their older counterparts. Whilst a fresh pair of eyes looking at a situation cannot be criticised, as a reason for having a minimum age of 18 it does not hold water. Barely out of school and with, according to latest science, a still not fully developed brain, it is unlikely that at such an age justice can be dispensed with maturity, wisdom and unfettered by personal considerations.  This argument can of course be developed for many more words. The representative of diversity protagonists seem to be virtually unassailable these days  but for those interested I have tweeted a poll on Twitter @bloggingJP on this topic. Whether you agree with me or not make your opinion public anonymously.  

Friday, 12 October 2018

MAGISTRACY BEING KILLED OFF

I am increasingly convinced that the selection process for magistrates is flawed. During my time on the bench it was common knowledge that there were perhaps 5%-10% of colleagues who were not intellectually or otherwise of a standard comparable with the job. Sanctions were rarely applied. Already this month four magistrates have been before the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.  Of these two have been removed from the magistracy owing to their failure to commit to the minimum number of sittings required and a third for drug possession. The fourth behaved in what only can be described in a crassly ignorant manner not befitting her position and was fortunate IMHO for not suffering the same fate as the other three. 

Altogether this year twelve Justices of the Peace have been removed from the magistracy the majority for failing to sit the minimum meagre requirement of a half day every fortnight; a schedule which does not allow the skills or knowledge necessary to be embodied in a lay magistrate sitting as a winger and is scandalously too little for a chairman to acquire the skills required.  These numbers are not unusual.  Every month JPs are thrown out for their unwillingness to devote the time required; a commitment that every appointments committee must surely emphasise.  So why does it happen?  It is a total waste of time and money to appoint and train somebody who fails at such a predictable hurdle.

Like so much else within the MOJ`s empire  the magistracy I believe is slowly being allowed to whither on the vine.  When it finally is killed off in its traditional form our legal system will be so much the poorer.  

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

COURT ESCAPES

During my time as an active JP I was not personally in a court from which a defendant had escaped although there were a couple of such episodes in an adjoining courtroom.  In my very early days there usually was a uniformed police officer in the remand court and others in the vicinity as witnesses to one case or another.  That level of security tailed off in the late nineties. Some docks were secure particularly in the remand courts but others presented no barrier to a determined miscreant who might have decided to abscond or do harm to those present. Recently two violent offenders breached what little there was of court security at Worcester Crown Court and Grimsby Crown Court respectively. I am a blogger and not a research statistician. There are no easily obtained statistics on the numbers of individuals who have attempted or actually achieved an escape from court.  The nearest document of significance is listed below.  It is not dated nor does it offer the aforementioned numbers; I would opine that that is deliberate obfuscation by the MOJ; a trait which has become the norm. When the numbers are hidden only the most dedicated will sniff them out.  So just another result from the decimation of police numbers initiated by an incompetent home secretary who is honing her position as the most incompetent prime minister in my lifetime. 

Not being sufficiently techie the link below should enable access of pdf. document.

The Management of Prisoners that present a risk of escape or violence ...



https://www.judiciary.uk/wp.../management_prisoners_risk_escape_violence.pdf

Annex 2 - Management of Prisoners who present a Risk of Escape or. Violence when attending Court - Application to Court for Improving Security. Arrangements .

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

SHAME ON HIM!

It is extremely risky and perhaps foolhardy to describe the actions of others in life and death situations when sitting safely at a keyboard.  I will take my chances. When people sign up for the armed forces or the fire or police service they know that they are likely to be in some physical danger at some time(s) in their career.  Those who are promoted to leadership roles must have indicated to their superiors that in addition to perhaps exhibiting rare skills of management or expertise that they have not forgotten the basics of the job; ie to run towards the danger whilst the rest of us run from it.  It seems that the acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police at the time of the Westminster terrorist attack had forgotten these basics.  SHAME ON HIM! 

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

LADY WINDEMERE AND LORD DARLINGTON HAD IT CORRECT

It seems that it is not only in the UK where police patrols on motorways are far less common than a decade ago; after having just returned from travelling on autoroutes in Normandy and Brittany the French police appear to be equally absent. Although road casualties in France are far higher than here I felt that the French hare brained, must get there quicker than you attitude has diminished. Indeed I felt confident crossing a road by a zebra crossing that traffic would stop.......and it did. Which brings me to yesterday`s announcement from the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire that he is giving additional discretionary powers to the county`s PCSOs.  Many years ago I posted on creeping practices across many professions of hailing the extra help that "assistants" would give to principals.  The argument went that the employment of such people at relatively low wages would free up time for their senior professionals and would thus be cost effective.  Such briefings always emphasised that the role of the assistants would not impinge that of their professionally qualified superiors. Thus were born CPS prosecuting assistants, teaching assistants, dental assistants, optical assistants, nursing assistants and many others including police community support officers.  Of course it is now acknowledged from government to nursery that what the military term "mission creep" has truly engulfed us when these assistants take on the roles previously withheld from them and for which latterly pseudo qualifications have been required.  And all this is for the single purpose of saving money whatever the cost to society in the longer term. 

Most generally law abiding citizens come into contact with police only for traffic matters.  Police constables having survived intensive scrutiny to be accepted, with their extensive training in the classroom and on the job learn how to handle the sensitive interface between them and the public; whether a firm warning is sufficient right up to the powers of arrest.  My experience in practice and whilst on the bench is that PCSOs lack such judgement.  That`s not surprising considering the low level of academic requirement and a starting salary of £19,500 maximum.  Now these assistant police officers by any other name are being given enhanced powers by a constabulary which Her Majesty`s Inspector of Constabulary concluded was below the "must do better" level of a school report card. 

This is the time we live in when a former home secretary applying the rules of austerity recently agreed with the then 2018 home secretary Amber Rudd that rising crime bears no relationship to the decimation in the numbers of police officers and that government funding had increased.    

Never was the phrase "government that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing" more applicable.........with apologies to Oscar Wilde.

Monday, 24 September 2018

J.P. EN VACANCES EN NORMANDIE

I have a great liking for calvados so for the next week or so I will be in my element at the home of all drinks apple; no doubt I will also sample un demi de cidre in Normandy over the next week or so. 

Thursday, 20 September 2018

PARADOX OF PERSONALITY OF HMCTS TOADS


On 14th June I posted on the MOJ`s search for a "national leadership magistrate". Since then all but one regional leadership toads have been appointed. 


If there are any doubters that the end of the magistracy as it has been known for over 600 years is on the horizon they should re-examine the political history of the organisation and its ancillary duties over the last twenty years.  I made my first of many comments on the demise of an independent magistracy almost as soon as I began blogging as Justice of the Peace in 2009 (at a now defunct site). This total potential control by HMCTS surely points to the eventual wiping out of the Magistrates Association as a point of influence. But what kind of person signs up to be a government lackey?  I can only assert that those with the attributes to be politicians or regional leadership magistrates are the very people whose personalities indicate that they should not actually do those jobs. I term this the paradox of personality.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

DON`T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD

It is becoming increasingly irrefutable that the disastrous cuts in police numbers instigated when she was home secretary by arguably the worst prime minister in modern times are resulting in a crime wave of horrendous proportions where daily killings in London are common place and drug dealers are extending their empires to every town and village in the country.  In the light of such activity one would have thought that police up and down the country would maximise their limited resources for public protection and prevention of breaches of the peace. One would have thought wrongly at least in the case of the thin blue line attempting to patrol the county of Leicester`s many streets and byways. This is the constabulary which in 2015 announced with the bravado of a  teenage Lothario who had made his first conquest that in future investigations of alleged burglary it would investigate only those addresses with even numbers. Not satisfied with the derision that that decision heaped upon those officers at the sharp end those responsible for allocating what funds are available for officers` training have now used their collective wisdom to offer banter training to reduce workplace tensions when misunderstood language might be the cause of perceived offence.  

The only offence I can perceive is to the common sense of police officers and to the tax payers of Leicester. That wonderful sixties blues band The Animals had it just right; "Don`t let me be misunderstood". 

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

WHAT IS DIVERSITY?

I`m a collector or perhaps hoarder is a more accurate description the result being that I never have enough space to put away all my bits and pieces. It was whilst I was searching this morning for some documents from the 1990s that I stumbled across the learning log supplied when I attended the weekend induction course to the magistracy. The third entry written on December 31st at the end of my first year on the bench describes my thoughts and I copy it word for word below.

“Legally two cases stand out. The first at the beginning of the year; a case of two black defendants being accused of causing harassment, alarm and distress to two police officers with three other officers as witnesses. We decided there was no case to answer. This was my first trial. It was a rude awakening to how the police can operate against “short tempered” innocent blacks and how the rules governing the threat to use CS gas were disregarded. I wonder if the defendants considered that a white, middle class middle aged bench believed their story to the exclusion of the police evidence and whether it was a topic amongst their friends or family that might indicate that the courts were not biased against them”.


The above sitting was prior to the murder of Stephen Lawrence. 

Thursday, 13 September 2018

MORE FROM THE MOUTHPIECES AT THE MOJ

Still not fully recovered from the wee germ but it so happens there have been some recent  government press releases which might be of interest. Results of fully-video hearings pilot published.    Still this regime will not be deflected from the path of instant distance justice whatever the cost in human emotion. Pilots will inevitably be deemed as successful and the English language is tortured to death to excuse any unwanted results. Judicial Diversity Statistics 2018 will show that the magistracy is the most diverse of all judicial levels but IMHO we are being hanged on this term when quality and suitability should be the only criteria.  Judicial office holders must be respected for their ability to do the job not fulfil a quota. Jail time to double for assaulting an emergency worker  It would seem that in order for the increased penalties to be available such matters will have to go to crown court as the lower courts` powers are limited to six months custody for a single offence.  According to the release, "Attacking a person serving the public is already an aggravating factor in sentencing guidelines but this Bill will put that position on a statutory basis for emergency workers".  I thought the general idea is to simplify the law not increase its complexity but then I`m just a lowly ill informed retired JP.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

FORGIVE THE GAP

Recovering from a viral infection. Normal service will, I hope, be resumed ASAP

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

J.P.s OUTSPOKEN BUT A WASTE OF TIME

It has been my opinion for over a decade that the concept of local justice is local in name only and that the function of Justices of the Peace will be but a historical footnote by the middle of the next decade. Magistrates are not well organised as a lobby group.  The Magistrates Association has faded from prominence and influence to be replaced by national bench chairmen in a so called forum under the complete control of the executive.  To add to the situation and to seek more control the MOJ in June advertised for a National Leadership Magistrate.  No announcement has yet been made if that position has been filled. Full details can be found on my post of 14th June. With all that in mind I was impressed to read in the Guardian that Kent magistrates have made their own direct protest at the changes anticipated which are just around the corner. Their arguments are cogent but I fear they are fighting a losing battle.  The MOJ will not make substantive changes in its intentions to further remove from our courts the essentials of a level playing field where the guilty are punished and with an equality of arms the innocent are  set free.

Monday, 3 September 2018

TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE

It`s not often that a news event slots into so many aspects of my life and my hobby as a blogger.  I was retired from the magistracy having reached the biblical three scores years and ten, I have recently had to renew my driving license and in a previous life I was an eyecare professional.  The news event is that police are to be given powers to immediately revoke the driving license of somebody who fails a police initiated roadside "eye test".  A first impression might be that this is a worthwhile new activity for police to be involved in but I question that.  The current requirement to ascertain if an applicant for a driving license can see properly is for him/her to read a number plate on a vehicle at 20M in normal daylight conditions.   Other requirements do not require anything other than a driver`s declaration.  Professional organisations associated with eyecare, its practice and its practitioners have for many decades pleaded with government to insist that license applicants be subjected to a comprehensive eye examination and issued with a certificate of competence on meeting the required standard before a practical driving test is taken.  Currently as far as I am aware that requirement at a minimum is still before government for those like me who must renew their license every three years.  As if police are under employed another task is handed to them.  But they are not the people who should be doing this; there are optometrists on every high street  fully equipped academically, professionally and legally to undertake this work.   By by- passing this route it is another example of this government`s choosing the cheapest easy way out to meet what is perceived a public demand. i.e. it is another public relations gimmick by the worst and arguably most incompetent cabinet minister in my lifetime......Chris Grayling; he who removed books from prisoners, he who imposed court charges which were rescinded as soon as he left office, he who has buggered up all he touches as Transport Minister.  So many commentators more knowledgeable than I have said it: Oh for Her Majesty`s  Opposition that was worthy of the name to offer us an alternative to the current lot who indeed could not have a wild party in a brewery.