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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


I have previously expressed the opinion that we are more and more being considered by HMCTS as unpaid employees as opposed to the actuality that we are volunteers comprising the lowest level of the judiciary.  This situation has arisen purely and simply because our representatives have been impotent in the face of the steamrolling  actions of HMCTS and other parts of the Justice Ministry.  The supine behaviour of organisations eg Bench Chairmen and their talking shop aptly named Forum {definition:- a meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged}.  show it has no power whatsoever and is an ego trip for its participants.  Of more significance is the continuing failure of the Magistrates` Association to confront (at least in public) government with opposition to the unsaid future of J.P.s being excluded from their primary function in our courts. 

The insidious traps which are salami slicing our functions baited with the honeyed proposals of Damien Green in his letter to magistrates of 30/08/2013 serve as a warning -

"1.      How do we ensure that magistrates deal with the right cases in court?

2.  How can magistrates play a stronger role in the community?

3.  How can we ensure that Magistrates are in the driving seat of improving performance of the justice system in their communities?"

With Her Majesty`s Courts and Tribunal Service the evidence is even more stark in their attitude to us.  We are to be part of a time and motion study of the performance of SERCO; a giant  organisational amoeba absorbing all the government contracts it can stomach as a result of the almost paranoid desire of Chris Grayling to rid his Ministry of any responsibility for its primary functions at the alter of payment by results.  An interested individual  has kindly provided proof of this in  documents sent to a Bench chairman.  These are reproduced below with some redactions.

Members of a bench are being instructed to effect a time and motion study on the orders of their Justices Clerk.  The requirement is to monitor the efficiency or lack thereof of SERCO in relation to its contract to produce prisoners in court on time.  This is stretching to an unprecedented level the co-operation which has historically been essential to the smooth running of magistrates` courts. If HMCTS wishes to know if its contract with SERCO is less effective than expected it should employ appropriate people to fulfil that function. Magistrates are not on the bench for such a purpose.   They  have been hitherto ready, willing and able to function as volunteers in a unique partnership with an essential limb of government.  That HMCTS has issued such a decree is nothing short of outrageous and it risks losing what little goodwill remains between it and many if not most of my colleagues if and when the process encompasses them personally.  

Reference is made in doc 1 to the Judicial Issues Group.  This organisation started off as the Justices Issue Group and when HMCTS was merely Her Majesty`s Courts Service  before the inevitable “bigger is better” mantra for such organisations saw it digest  the Tribunals Service to become the  monster it is today.   This document is the foundation of all relationships between Justices of the Peace and those who operate the courts. This was followed in 2006 by  the paper “Responsibilities for the leadership and management of the judicial business of theMagistrates’ Courts”.   2007 saw the publication of “The Responsibilities of Justices’ Clerks to the Magistracy andthe Discharge of their Judicial Functions”.

It seems impossible for the underlying themes within those documents to be compatible with what is happening re the monitoring of performances of SERCO by magistrates who are sitting in court exercising their judicial function.

Bench chairmen have or should have a lot of explaining to do.  The Magistrates Association is as impotent as a eunuch in ancient Egypt in its dealings with this Justice Secretary and his minions so it`s no surprise that this “initiative” has, as far as I know,  not appeared in its official publication although I am ready to be contradicted.   This fiasco is further proof if that were needed that the views and/or opinions of J.P.s are of no consequence whatsoever despite the usual arguments of representation at bench or M.A. branch level.  These are totally ineffective and allow weak representatives to be overwhelmed by the government machine.  

Who is there now who is confident that the majority of magistrates` courts in 2025 will be constituted as they are now; by three Justices of the Peace?


  1. Do you think DJ's (Mag.Courts) have been asked to monitor Serco's performance with a stop-watch? If so, can you anticipate their response?