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.

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Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Doing any repetitive job however  rigorous, intricate, detailed, specific, taxing or complex can, over many years, lead to the burying of unusual cases deep in the sub conscious mind.  It was only during a casual retiring room discussion recently that resurrected an instance in 2010 (just after this blog began) where logic seemed to be outwith the system within which we must operate. Fortunately even then I had for some years been keeping brief reminder notes of interesting sittings.

Before us was Ronald, a white male, about forty years old.  This was the second listing.  We were told that on the previous occasion his behaviour non violent as it was suggested that he should be seen by the court psychiatrist before making his plea to a charge of criminal damage.  At 2.30p.m. we had before us a report from said professional who had interviewed Ronald that morning. His conclusion based amongst other things on the knowledge that Ronald had been in and out of the local mental health unit suffering from paranoid schizophrenia was that he was fit to plead.  His lawyer had only recently seen the court papers.  Ronald pleaded  not guilty  and we proceeded to  case management  and to fix a trial date.  Then the difficulties surfaced.  Because presence was denied Ronald`s representative  indicated that an alibi defence would be run.  Witnesses for CPS were whittled down to the arresting officer and CCTV footage a frame of which was shown to the defendant`s lawyer and which purported to clearly show Ronald   at the scene of the alleged offence.  In addition we were told the frame also showed  an article allegedly used to commit the offence.  After a brief consultation with his client he informed us that his instructions had been changed.  Ronald had now admitted presence but was still denying the charge. The problem for defence and us was that during the psychiatrist`s  session with Ronald and written into the report was an admission of guilt and a recommendation that a full psychiatric assessment be made of this person.  We retired to discuss all this with our legal advisor.  His recommendation was unequivocal. If Ronald had pleaded guilty we could have adjourned for the recommended full assessment to be made but with a not guilty plea we had no choice but to proceed to trial and any further investigation of Ronald`s mental health had to be considered by the defence; not the court. 

Whatever the legal position  in my mind that was the anomaly. 

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