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Tuesday 5 December 2023


I have never sat on a jury.  Indeed many decades ago I received my one and only summons for that purpose but I had to request an exemption owing to my professional undertakings.  Now my intellectual and/or physical capacity according to the MOJ renders me unfit for such duties.  I must be content with voicing my opinions here and occasionally elsewhere.  A three person bench of lay magistrates is in effect a mini jury.  Its members have been trained how to consider evidence in a structured fashion supposedly simplified by the introduction of  Sentencing Guidelines introduced over a decade ago to  remove the effects of a perceived post code lottery in outcomes.  In some matters, as I have written previously, it seems only a matter of time until algorithms take over much of the human function but for the present most people`s experience of a court is in a magistrates court and their futures, for better or worse, in the hands of those selected for their apparent abilities to satisfy a selection process written by civil servants in the MOJ. 

Last month Grant Roberts JP was castigated by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office; his [crime] misdemeanour was improper use of the internet insofar as, "had conducted an independent internet research on the defendant to assist him in reaching a decision." The full statement is available here. From the report a couple of points emerge in addition to the matters of principle which I will address. It would seem that the legal advisor must have been present in the retiring room to hear the then "innocent" admission by Mr Grant. From My earliest days on the bench following the examples set by those senior to me whose abilities impressed me I would request legal advisors to leave the bench in private to discuss any matter which required a decision after of course we had been advised of any facet of the law which was or could be pertinent to the matter in hand. Once I had assumed the middle chair most L/As were content except one newbie who insisted she must be present as she had always been at her previous court. After much reluctance she left us to discuss a post trial decision. She was never to repeat her interloping whilst I was sitting. Of course the situation re Mr Grant might have hinged on an absent L/A being informed by the other winger or the Presiding Justice of his junior colleague`s supposed inadvertent error.

Now let me offer a "what if" scenario which must occur at some if not many post trial decision making sessions. Every person in some form or another has specialist knowledge of something. At my former bench there were people from all backgrounds and occupations from bus driver to jeweller to teacher to builder to health professional etc. each with his/her own specialist knowledge; knowledge that others might need Mr Google to verify. The scenario continues: discussion centres around a witness`s oral statement which a bench member knows categorically is untrue. Does the magistrate inform his colleagues that with his undisputed knowledge the erroneous or lying evidence is false? If s/he does not and is questioned as to why he has come to a conclusion that perhaps is the minority conclusion a misjustice might have occurred. If, on the other hand, he does make his specialist knowledge of the topic a basis for bringing the false testimony to the discussion how different is that [in a particular case] much different from ascertaining a fact from the internet?

At this point I must make my own opinion clear. I remember exactly my own divulgence to my colleagues of a false statement made under oath by a defendant that I knew to be false from my professional expertise. My comment was recognised by my colleagues and adopted into our weighing the evidence. Was my action inappropriate? I did not consider it thus at the time and I haven`t changed my opinion.

Friday 1 December 2023


A most interesting essay on whether juries can spurn the law in the Law Society Journal by Joshua Rosenberg can be read here.   

In due course I hope to discuss this with relation to magistrates.

Tuesday 28 November 2023


If there is one factor above many others that serves to distinguish a totalitarian regime from what we loosely term a democratic nation it is openness.  In this country it is exemplified by The Freedom of Information Act  which was passed on 30 November 2000 in the first Labour government under Tony Blair.  However in his memoirs of 2010 with a coalition government now installed he wrote, "“Freedom of Information. Three harmless words. I look at those words as I write them, and feel like shaking my head till it drops off my shoulders. You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it. Once I appreciated the full enormity of the blunder, I used to say – more than a little unfairly – to any civil servant who would listen: Where was Sir Humphrey when I needed him? We had legislated in the first throes of power. How could you, knowing what you know have allowed us to do such a thing so utterly undermining of sensible government?”

Tony Blair, A Journey, Hutchinson, September 2010

I suppose the underlying motivation for governments of all colours to withhold information from the public is that knowledge is power and the less power to the proles the better.  The judicial system is a prime example of secrecy in power, for power by power.  Magistrates are at the bottom of the pecking order and are supposed to represent a conduit between the professional government financed judiciary and the common folk who are suspected of law breaking.  Despite having a hybrid status of themselves being common folk volunteering their time unpaid they are arguably subjected to higher degrees of the requirement to adhere to strict rules and regulations as to their conduct in court and out. When I was appointed both government and the Magistrates Association took great pride in the old English system of the magistracy with an emphasis on "local justice for local people" notwithstanding the fact that an increasing number of paid District Judges(MC) were being appointed with no concern for their or any  geographical affiliations.  At the receiving end of the system where those accused of transgressions in their judicial or personal activities are judged by the Judicial Conduct and Investigation Office the guilty, until very recently, were identified by name and the bench to which they belonged. That is now no longer the case.  For those for any reason seeking to identify any Justice of the Peace admonished or worse by the JCIO some detective work is now required to identify the miscreant magistrates` localities as their bench is no longer identified. It seems that secrecy rules. The current inquiry into the handling of the Covid epidemic will be studied for years as to whether information withheld within and by government led to unnecessary fatalities. From top to bottom, from Number 10 to the lowliest PPS the order is plausible denial and obfuscation as a backstop. The JCIO gagging order is just another, if minor, worrying sign of a government covering as much of its backside as it can under the realisation that it will not be around much longer to cover its tracks.  

Monday 20 November 2023


When learned folk talk or write about "courts" more often or not the reference is to a court at the higher level of our jurisdiction system as opposed to the lower.  A casual observer might opine that that is not surprising; the higher the level of jurisdiction the higher the level of prosecution or dispute when considering civil cases.  For those very reasons tradition has made available a ladder to indicate the legal and/or intellectual prowess of those who keep warm the benches in these superior courts.  We might then surmise that whilst a crown court judge in army terms is a major, a High Court judge is a colonel, an Appeal Court judge a lieutenant general and a judge of the Supreme Court a field marshall.  Where does that leave the district judge and the lay magistrate? I would suggest the former is a sergeant and the latter a corporal who`s considered by his commanding officer to be capable of taking on the rank of sergeant.  Those who appear before the lower court might be thought of as privates  some of whom have disobeyed orders.  They differ from real offenders in that their employer is also their judge and that employer wants to have them back at work as soon as possible whilst simultaneously ensuring that any punishment is seen as a deterrent to others who might err. In the real world the armed forces, to use the vernacular, have skin in the judicial and legal game.  Not so our world.  Those who formulate the criminal justice system are as distant from their final product as can be.  After all Secretaries of Defence, Education, Health are at risk of trauma, children with poor arithmetic or language abilities and suffering poor health.  They all have skin in the game but not judges or magistrates. They don`t fear being removed from office by the electorate; only by failing in a personal or professional capacity.  And with a slight leap in imagination these sentencers are far removed from the results of  application of sentences the design of which is increasingly able to be formulated by AI with little human input.  Indeed a glance through the Sentencing Guidelines for eg assault requires but a modicum of original thought. It can be argued that the outcomes of sentencing exercises depend more on what`s inputted than what`s expected or hoped for as an output. 

Every day at magistrates courts there are examples of  the self imposed limitations in the system.  Indecent exposure and similar offences have been shown to be high risk factors for reoffending at a higher level of indecency or worse. This offender surely needs to be restricted in a secure establishment until his deviant tendencies can be considered cured.  If a positive outcome is unobtainable the public must be protected; their importance and safety outweighs the freedom of such an individual to roam until further convictions. 

Arson is a very serious offence but it is classified as an either way offence meaning it can be tried in the magistrates or crown court the lower court having a maximum sentence of only six months custody.  

In my time on the bench I never sat on such a matter.  Indeed I would suggest that few of my colleagues past or present have but at Kidderminster Magistrates Court such a case was heard.  Apparently considered as a Category 3 offence the offender is still free to continue his daily life.  

When six consecutive four week jail terms are handed out to an offender the seriousness becomes apparent but not so apparent that immediate custody was deemed suitable.  That get out of jail free card was played also by the bench of Kidderminster Magistrates Court in the form of a suspended custodial sentence.  

Finally an offender of no fixed abode requested an immediate prison sentence, a request  with which the court complied. 

It is common knowledge that there has been, is and will officially soon be a directive from the MOJ regarding the availability of custodial sentences for magistrates courts.  As things stand now there is often little or no adequate outcome for many offenders.  Around 3%-4% historically have received immediate custody orders and for those sentenced in the community, a blanket term with no meaning if ever there was one,  a decimated probation service is generally all that is available to attempt rehabilitation by, inter alia, doing good works in the community.  For others there are so called banning orders, courses in anger management, domestic abuse and other therapies.  But in all these cases the offender is free to mix with the population. I have long advocated that an interim form of deprivation of freedom combined with professional therapists and trainers would fulfil that purpose.  In Dickens` time it was  called the workhouse {search box will identify previous posts on that word}  and fulfilled the local needs as were considered then socially beneficial both to the receivers and the public. 

It is common sense and economically very sensible that protection of the public should be combined with remedial therapies to prevent re-offending.  Until there is some fundamental way in which we govern ourselves I am realistic enough to be aware that such innovation will remain a pipe dream. 

Tuesday 14 November 2023


Today 14th November 2023 our Prime Minister in emphasising  that his government was all set for "change" appointed a previous prime minister as Foreign Secretary; a prime minister who had resigned from parliament a few months after the result of  his ill conceived  ineptitude and dismal failure of his "referendum policy".  Perhaps this single appointment sums up all the failings of the last 13 years.  I have a picture in my head of a boy scout on an overnight expedition in self sufficiency being unable  to light a campfire with a simple sparking kit and asks the scoutmaster for a box of matches.   And so it is with magistrates courts.  

For many decades offenders at magistrates courts with few exceptions have been subject to legislation which limited sentencing powers to a maximum of six months custody. The Magistrates Association, a body ignored by increasing numbers of magistrates,  has repeatedly pressed for that limit to be increased although no historic papers on that topic are available on its website which, for non members, is carefully edited to avoid controversy.  But as with many aspects of all our lives the Covid epidemic changed all that. The ruthless pruning of court buildings from 2010  [300 to 150] and the ignoring of the situation in that year when it was predicted that almost half of magistrates would be retired within a decade threw all previous assumptions on prison capacity into turmoil.  There is an old adage, what goes around comes around.  Another that seems suitably appropriate is the Conservative Party`s chickens have come home to roost.  We are now on the 11th Secretary of State for Justice/Lord Chancellor since 2010 proof if it were needed that with the confusion, obfuscation and crass intellectual failings in Petty France  the law `n order banner of the Tory Party is well and truly shredded.  In an attempt to repair that once upon a time headline policy of safeguarding the nation`s streets from crime the delayed realisation that there is simply no prison space remaining and no time before a general election to build more prison accommodation the government has decided to march magistrates courts sentencing powers not just up the sentencing hill and then march them down again but to march them underground.  On 2 May 2022, the Government gave Magistrates the power to impose a sentence of up to 12-months' custody for a single triable either way offence (Section 224(1A) of the Sentencing Act 2020 inserted by section 13(1)(b) of the Judicial Review and Courts Act 2022). {my bold} The government justification for this increased sentencing limit is available here.   The Magistrates Association was quick to respond to the extended sentencing powers of May 2022.  "We advocated for an extension to magistrates’ sentencing powers for more than a decade to help speed up justice for complainants and defendants. It’s anticipated that 1,700 days of crown court time will be freed up every year now that magistrates can hear more cases." 

On 22nd March this year the well respected House of Commons Justice Committee wrote to the then Lord Chancellor.  A week later magistrates courts were marched down again.  The Sentencing Act 2020 (Magistrates' Court Sentencing Powers) (Amendment) Regulations 2023, authorised by Mr Mike Freer, amended section 224(1A)(b) of the Sentencing Act 2020, reducing the maximum sentence for an either way offence from 12 to 6 months. The change came into force on 30 March 2023.  {my underline}  Once again the Magistrates Association responded by saying it (The Magistrates Association)  expressed disappointment about the reversal, cautioned about resignations, and said it would be urging the Government to restore the extended powers as soon as possible.

In 2021 a poll indicated that the public thought that sentences had been shortened but in fact crown court sentences had increased.  Indeed the prison population has increased by 20% in the last 20 years. The inevitable result of this crass mismanagement is that this dying administration has concluded that sentencing reform is a pre requisite for any other reforms to the prison problem. The government is the maker of its own misfortune.  Sentencing reform means promotion of community sentences tough enough to punish, deter and rehabilitate.  This sounds simple enough but requires a reinvigorated probation service already decimated by probably the most incompetent Justice Secretary this country has ever experienced, Chris Grayling.  To that end  we can only hope there is a basis for optimism. 

But for magistrates there is more to come.  Last week the King`s Speech had something interesting within its many bland pronouncements: "To address recent concerns about prison capacity and reoffending, Mr Chalk has stated the government would legislate to introduce a presumption that custodial sentences of less than 12 months would be suspended.[33] Offenders would instead serve their punishment in the community. Mr Chalk said the government did not plan to dispense with short sentences completely because a custodial sentence would remain the appropriate sanction in some circumstances."

So there in brief, we have it.  A justice system in its death throes, its death having been inflicted by a thousand self inflicted cuts.  Were an individual to inflict such mutilation on her/himself or another s/he would be immediately sectioned.  Defence, Health and Education have their own stories of blundering, mindless,  gross and asinine inefficiencies and mismanagement.  For all our futures 😱 is no help. Optimism is part of human nature.  I hope it`s enough to see us through. ☝


Tuesday 7 November 2023


The term "hate crime" is now, I suppose, recognised by all those who have a finger on the pulse of UK social mores and is now a common charge heard at magistrates courts. In the year ending March 2023, there were 145,214 hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales (excluding Devon and Cornwall police) a decrease of 5% from the year ending March 2022 (153,536 offences) the first fall since the comparable time series began in the year ending March 2013. Prior to the fall seen this year police recorded hate crime offences rose between the years ending 2013 and 2022; this prolonged period of increasing offences was thought to have been driven by improvements in crime recording by the police and better identification of what constitutes a hate crime. There were 101,906 race hate crimes, a fall of 6% from the previous year when there were 108,476 offences: this was driven by a decrease in racially or religiously aggravated public fear, alarm or distress offences. As in previous years the majority of hate crimes were racially motivated accounting for 7 in 10 of all such offences (70%; 101,906 offences). Religious hate crimes decreased by 4% from 8,602 to 8,241 offences. In the light of current events the next set of religious hate crime figures will be interesting.

Latest figures suggest that there are 3.9 million declared Muslims in England representing 6.5% of the population and 271,000 Jews representing 0.50% of the population. The number and proportion of religious hate crimes recorded by the police, by the perceived targeted religion, year ending March 2023 was 3,400 concerning Muslims 44% of the total and related to Jews 1,510 equating to 19% of the total 7,756 such offences.  One doesn`t need to be a mathematician to note that the level of hate crimes against Jews is out of all proportion to their numbers in the population. What can be assumed is that these crimes can be constituted under the term antisemitism

When it comes to the prosecution of  hate crime the Crown Prosecution Service works to the following guidance:- such crimes are covered by legislation (Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and section 66 of the Sentencing Act 2020) which allows prosecutors to apply for an uplift in sentence for those convicted of a hate crime including of course crime based on religion. For a complete understanding of CPS guidance on religious hate crime there are tens of thousands of words to read here.

Generally until October 7th Muslims regarded themselves [and the statistics seem to bear this out] as the pre eminent victims of religious hate crime.  Since that dreadful day; dreadful in the eyes of  most right thinking observers but justified in the minds of those eaten up by a combination of Marxist Islamist propaganda,  Tweeters with nazi sympathies and the gorgeous luvvies who follow every progressive trend, have demonstrated hate crime at levels  unknown in this country for 70 years. It has been allowed to fester with little application of the law available to prevent it.  Crowds of estimated 100,000 have twice thronged London`s parliamentary area behaving in a manner not conducive to public order but arrests were relatively few at only 29.  In contrast Jewish assemblies at Trafalgar and Parliament Square by up to 4,000 peaceful demonstrators  required police only to protect them unlike the marches where thousands from the Met and beyond were summoned to ensure that there should be no disturbance to the King`s peace.  Of the weekend just gone the Independent reports, 
29 arrests were made in the capital, including two people on suspicion of breaching the Terrorism Act over the wording of banners at the event. A man suspected of making anti-Semitic comments in a speech was also arrested suspicion of inciting racial hatred, while three others were arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer. Later in the evening, police said some demonstrators launched fireworks into crowds and toward officers, resulting in a dispersal order being issued to clear the area."  Can it be assumed that all the others involved were not considered as having broken the law?  I would suggest no. The Met Police have been overwhelmed and face in my opinion a charge of institutional antisemitism insofar as their application of the laws available to them has been lax to say the least.  

Notwithstanding the above when it comes to perceived criticism of Muslims in one form or another police in all regions are not slow to invoke that legislation which had been ignored over the last few weeks in relation to the war against Hamas. Quoting direct from the CPS website:-
"An MP has been found guilty of racially abusing a member of the public today (3 November 2023) at Westminster Magistrates’ Court after a one-day trial. Robert Stewart MP, was convicted of a racially aggravated public order offence after he told a member of the public to go back to his country, demonstrating racial hostility likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to those present at the time. He was attending an event hosted by the Government of Bahrain when he used racist language towards the victim outside of the venue. Stewart was fined £600, which the court said would have been £400 had it not been for the seriousness of the hate crime he committed. Claire Walsh, of the CPS, said: “The court has found today that Robert Stewart's language amounted to a racially aggravated offence. "His claim that his words were misinterpreted were rejected by the court in light of evidence presented by the CPS, including footage filmed by a witness and the victim's testimony. “Hatred of any kind has no place in society and wherever our legal test is met, the CPS will not hesitate to prosecute those who perpetrate hate crimes."  A report from LBC is available here. Readers will or have decided whether the application of hate crime legislation is partial or impartial.  

Police have been observed tearing down posters in London and elsewhere of pictures of children kidnapped into Gaza by Hamas terrorists. Their response has been that their action was to prevent public disorder.  So the assumption must be that police consider an image in a legally allowed public space of a kidnapped child is a provocation for some misguided people to be disorderly or commit a public order offence. The latest news on forthcoming protests scheduled for this Sunday November 12th Armistice Day is that the Metropolitan Police have asked the organiser of a proposed march on that day to postpone it.  That request has been refused.
If the Met has made it clear (and it has) why it considers the protest should not take place on Sunday why does it not ban it for those very reasonable fears?  Jews and many others will have their opinions.  Thank you for giving  a few minutes of your time to read mine.  

Tuesday 31 October 2023


Yesterday the government announced that many released prisoners will no longer be required to disclose to prospective employers their convictions. The press release is available here.  

The reasoning for such a major change is that in the government`s eyes by having "a steady income, routine and purpose reoffending is cut and fewer members of the public will becomes victims of crime".  The government has estimated that the changes will assist about 125,000 in gaining employment. Ostensibly this policy change appears to be of benefit to society as a whole; after all re-offending increases strain on all the justice services from police to courts, to probation and finally to a prison system at the point of collapse. But what of the unmentioned factor in all this ; the employer.  A notable supporter of this policy is likely to be the boss of Timpsons, a long established retailer specialising in shoe repairs and key cutting whose 2000+ little shops cover the country. But what of the small firm whose boss is likely to be hands on from interviewing candidates to being last one to lock the door at night.  S/he will be unaware of the real gap in a prospective employee`s history if said person lies about his patchy CV.  If said person upon being employed commits eg theft or burglary on the premises will his insurance company  pay out for a claim?  If said employee brings to the job an illegal habit he had hidden and is subsequently fired what would be the situation re a possible claim against the employer?  Especially in small towns there might be those employed who harbour grudges against third parties or themselves be the subject of discrimination from those who had suffered in some way from the employee prior to employment.  

There are many hoops through which an employer must jump to be on the right side of  employment legislation.  As it stands this relaxation of disclosure requirements adds a further difficulty.  It also might lead to employers making assumptions on a genuine gap in an applicant`s CV for various reasons and lead them to assume the worst when such assumptions are simply wrong.  Of course somebody with a history of a prison record under this legislation need not remain silent and could admit his/her "spent" convictions.  Like much hasty legislation that has emerged from this government the knock on effects are likely to be considerable and a surprise to some. 

Tuesday 24 October 2023


As an interested non legally qualified person I suppose the legislation under which we are all governed and have requirement to obey is only as efficient as those who draft it  and those who indicate their approval by voting for it as it passes its various stages in parliament.  And so we have the Public Order Act the terms of which have caused a difference of opinion between the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Prime Minister.  In  the light of current events it is helpful to know the sections in question: [my bold]

(1)Where 12 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety, each of the persons using unlawful violence for the common purpose is guilty of riot.
(2)It is immaterial whether or not the 12 or more use or threaten unlawful violence simultaneously.
(3)The common purpose may be inferred from conduct.
(4)No person of reasonable firmness need actually be, or be likely to be, present at the scene.
(5)Riot may be committed in private as well as in public places.
(6)A person guilty of riot is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or a fine or both.

18 Use of words or behaviour or display of written material.
(1)A person who uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting, is guilty of an offence if—
(a)he intends thereby to stir up racial hatred, or
(b)having regard to all the circumstances racial hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby.
(2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the written material is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and are not heard or seen except by other persons in that or another dwelling.
(3)F65. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
(4)In proceedings for an offence under this section it is a defence for the accused to prove that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the written material displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling.
(5)A person who is not shown to have intended to stir up racial hatred is not guilty of an offence under this section if he did not intend his words or behaviour, or the written material, to be, and was not aware that it might be, threatening, abusive or insulting.
(6)This section does not apply to words or behaviour used, or written material displayed, solely for the purpose of being included in a programme [F66included in a programme service].

It is s.18 which has been widely quoted by some media commentators more qualified than I. It appears that much of the argument centres around the meaning of the Arabic term "JIHAD".  Below I`ve copied the 3rd paragraph on the first page of this most informative essay. 

"Since the late 20th century, the word jihad has gained remarkable currency: used by resistance, liberation, and terrorist movements alike to legitimate their cause and motivate their followers. The Afghan Mujahiddin, the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, have waged a jihad in Afghanistan against foreign powers and among themselves; Muslims in Kashmir, Chechnya, Daghestan and the southern Philippines, Bosnia and Kosovo have fashioned their struggles as jihads; Hizbollah, HAMAS, and Islamic Jihad Palestine have characterized war with Israel as a jihad; Algeria’s Armed Islamic Group has engaged in a jihad of terror against the government there and Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda have waged a global jihad against Muslim governments and the West."

Other learned experts have offered definitions similar to the author of the above. The argument of the Commissioner seems to revolve around the various definitions.  There can be little doubt that these disagreements of the semantics are a get out of jail free card by the Commissioner to avoid taking action against those who knew exactly what they meant and whose audience amidst their cheering knew that also.

The other argument used although I have not seen the exact clause or section stated explicitly is that for presumably s.1 to be used the subjected individual must be "present at the scene."  In other words the offence cannot be committed in a vacuum. This begs the question.  There is an old adage; can a rose be red at night?  The basis of this is that the rose has colour only when light is reflected from it, such light entering a human eye which has the ability to determine the wavelength interpreted by the brain as "colour".  Is the intrinsic value of the rose red or is it a subjective appreciation the reality of which requires that above mentioned eye to validate it?  Imagine two observers of the rose one of whom suffers from a colour blindness where red and green are indistinguishable. In daylight to that person the idea of "red" is incomprehensible.  However when both observers view the rose at night they experience the same subjective result; the rose is lacking colour to both.  They will see a similar shade of grey.  The rose of course is unchanged: its molecular structure is unchanged, its shape is unchanged ; it is the same rose as it was before sunset.  And so with s.1.  Let the legal eagles of government and the Commissioner accept the worldly view of the Muslims involved and present, and non Muslims {Jews} who were not,  that the definition of  Jihad is as above then the requirements to charge have been met.  But no action was taken and reasons for that are disingenuous in the extreme. The plain truth is that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, some Chief Constables and the Crown Prosecution Service were fearful of causing upset or worse in a crowd of 100,000 people, a sizeable proportion of which they considered might have become violent.  That is a perfectly reasonable position for police to have taken and for observers to have understood.  The trouble is, as in so many cases, police action [remember the vigil in memory of Sarah Everard  kidnapped, raped and killed by a firearms licensed police officer when Met Police brutally broke up a peaceful gathering mainly of women] or inaction is condemned only many months later when uniformed weasels make non apology apologies.  This weekend`s inaction is one of those occasions.  It follows the evening of  2/12/21 when Jewish teenagers were wrongly accused of provocative words and/or acts which provoked assault by Muslims. The crime was never solved although how deeply the Met investigated is a moot point. Another deeply disturbing inaction was in May 2021 when a convey of cars containing Palestinian supporters with flags being waved out of the windows drove along Finchley Road in north London; a busy main road  in an area with a high Jewish population.  Nobody has appeared in court for these activities.  When consideration is given to these and other incidents involving Jews and Muslims the reticence of police action is there for all to see.   

We are unfortunate in experiencing a government in disarray seeking desperately which avenues it might choose  to alleviate a probable humbling next year at the ballot box. If it decides that facing up to the political advancement of Islamist Hamas supporting politicking is a vote winner then that might be a single decision which benefits all of us who have taken for granted that our western Judeo Christian civilisation  can continue even  when social and medieval ideas and practices from the backwoods of Pakistan are gaining traction amongst many. 

FYI below is the statement [relevant section] that the Met Police put out to explain their non action.

Tuesday 17 October 2023



There are various definitions of what constitutes a justice system.  I suppose the following is as good as any:-  a set of government institutions and systems whose purpose is to apprehend, prosecute, punish, and rehabilitate criminal offenders. From that in simple terms the requirements are a police service, a courts service, a prison service and a probation service.  When a Secretary of State for Justice following on from the incompetence of his erstwhile colleagues in the Home Office in emasculating the police finally makes public what has been going on behind closed doors of Petty France are we to be astonished or relieved? 

To help clear the crown court backlog repeat shoplifters could be prevented from requesting trial by jury as the charge is being removed from those termed "either way". Those on remand whilst awaiting sentence for serious crimes e.g. rape might be free to walk the streets. Ministers are considering that prison recalls  might be scrapped and early release increased. It`s not unlikely that after the flip flop on magistrates` sentencing powers the pendulum will swing the other way but more of that later. 

147,000 police officers in 2010 were reduced to 120,000 by 2019. Since then frantic efforts to recruit have been made by the Home Office.  The result is thousands of ill equipped officers mentally and physically are on our streets. The average attrition rate in 2022 was calculated to be 9.1%, or 2,567 leavers out of 28,173 recruits. Excluding transfers 9,347 police officers left the 43 territorial forces in England and Wales in 2022/23, the highest number in a financial year since comparable headcount data began in 2006/07. Until last year, retirement was the dominant reason for losing officers but now most choose to quit following warnings of rising anger over pay, working conditions and treatment by the government.  It won`t have gone unnoticed that every week or so we read of heinous criminality of police officers being investigated. No wonder police morale must be at an all time low which hardly makes for public confidence in the system. 

I would suggest that over the last decade all manner of instructions have been relayed to magistrates [and of course District Judges MC] to avoid immediate custodial sentences except when absolutely necessary. The reasons are diverse.  Since 2010 half the magistrates courts in England and Wales have closed. From around 29,000 magistrates in that year there are now under 13,000. The notorious variable and various statistics on criminality since 2010 are no help in understanding why there were 347,820 outstanding cases at magistrates courts at 30/09/2022; that in 2022 the custody rate at these courts fell by 1%. For the year ended June 2022 926,689 offenders were sentenced at magistrates courts of whom 24,455 {2.64%} received immediate custody and 21,332 custody suspended {2.3%}. In 2022 the average custodial sentence was 3.2 months. On 2 May 2022 the Government gave magistrates the power to impose a sentence of up to 12-months' custody for a single triable either way offence (Section 224(1A) of the Sentencing Act 2020 inserted by section 13(1)(b) of the Judicial Review and Courts Act 2022).  On 30 March 2023 those powers of increased sentencing were removed. The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents barristers, had previously criticised the plan and said it could increase the risk of people being jailed for short sentences, piling further pressure on prisons. The Magistrates Association said it was “incredibly disappointed” at the decision – which it said was after efforts to cut prison overcrowding – and warned it would “slow down justice”. The above numbers are to give only a flavour of the current situation. If ever there was a clear example of the disarray within the MOJ the Duke of York`s sentencing march up the hill and down again must be it.  Combined with statistical analyses which need staticians to explore, only the most dysfunctional aspects of  that courts system are easily interrogated. 

And so to the prison service under the control also of the MOJ.  The ups and downs, ins and outs, to and fros of prisons, prisoners, prison officers and governors is a total shambles. Apparently the cells in magistrates courts are being made available for the prison service.  Poorly remunerated staff are on record levels of sick leave resulting in their charges being locked in their cells for over 20 hours a day.  I have visited both Pentonville jail [built in 1840] and Wandsworth [built in 1849] to hold 1,000 prisoners. It now has an official capacity of around 1,600 across five wings but inspections have consistently found it to be overcrowded with between 60% to 80% more inmates than it was designed for. In 2020/21, 24.4 percent of offenders who were released from custody in England and Wales went on to reoffend. In 2010 the rate was 31%.  Much can be read into this apparent "improvement". I am neither a statistician, criminologist, social worker nor probation officer by training but considering all the surrounding numbers of what happens before, during and after an offence such numbers are observational only. It is little wonder that with a disillusioned and broken probation service as a result of the MOJ Secretary Chris Grayling`s "reforms" in 2014 only to be reversed in 2020, rehabilitation is a work in progress.

Faith or trust in a justice system is a pillar of any democratic society. There have been in the last decade many instances where people`s confidences have been shaken and stirred. The estimated 50% - 60% of our population who have never had any dealings with the courts professionally or otherwise cannot be expected to have strong opinions but for those of us who should know better, worrying times ahead are already in view. 

Tuesday 10 October 2023


This blog usually comments on matters relating to the law in general and magistrates in particular.  Occasionally however there are events and/or circumstances that supercede such limitations.  The dreadful events of the last three days constitute such circumstances.  

On 26th November 2021 the Islamist terrorist group Hamas become a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK in its entirety, following Parliament’s approval of an Order which was laid in Parliament a week previously.  This means that members of Hamas or those who invite support for the group could be jailed for up to 14 years.  That seems simple enough but like so much legal drafting it leaves interpretation to the courts.  On 9th October Sky News broadcast a live interview with the Head of Political and International Relations in Hamas, Dr Basem Naim during which he denied that any Israeli civilians were killed.  According to his perverted thinking all Israeli citizens are military targets.  That interview can be viewed here. I am old enough to remember that during the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland from October 1988 to September 1994 the British government banned broadcasts of the voices of representatives from Sinn Féin and several Irish republican and loyalist groups on television and radio in the United Kingdom. Margaret Thatcher initiated this ban.  Considering the IRA was close to blowing her up in Brighton her personal feelings must have been disturbed to say the least. Her thinking seems to have been that such people can be seen but not heard.  In not banning images I suppose she considered that she was still allowing freedom of speech; a pillar of our democracy.  It was a foolish compromise and was widely mocked.  Three decades later the security situation is quite different.  9/11 in the USA and 7/7 here have exposed an awful weakness; a weakness and paradox all democratic nations eventually have to face.  Can a democratic society like the UK refrain from using autocratic ways and means to protect that self same democracy from falling to forces of anarchy and terror?  If we have not reached that point we are close to it. The previously mentioned interview was a soundbite for the approval and praise for murdering Jews.  (I write "Jews" and not Israelis.  The murderers knew that many of their victims and hostages were from foreign countries.) That interview should not have been broadcast. 

In our midst we have seen TV footage of screaming fanatical Muslims in Manchester, Liverpool and London not only castigating Israel but repeatedly calling for the elimination of the State of Israel as an entity because calling for a Palestine from the river to the sea means just that: a Palestine occupying all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.  Looting a kosher restaurant in the high street of Golders Green shows how perilously close these Islamists are to emulating albeit on a very small scale so far the actions of the Nazis in 1938 Germany.  The full force of existing law must be brought to bear on them.  So far Scotland Yard is showing a reluctance to considering that hate crimes are taking place.  The paradox of preserving a democracy by undemocratic means is ever closer.  The history of Paris after 1789 should be compulsory reading for all politicians.