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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Thursday, 3 October 2013
SAYING IT LIKE IT IS BUT ONLY WHEN RETIRED
Of all the prohibitions on the activities or actions a Justice of the Peace can undertake none is taken more seriously than talking to the media on the record. The Media Guide for the Judiciary is the rod with which a J.P.`s back can be broken if it is considered that s/he has stepped out of line. Colleagues have been removed from the magistracy for such failings. So it is hardly surprising that just as former generals or senior civil servants wait until their pensions are assured before going public with criticisms of systems or institutions, criticisms which would have had much more significance if they had been delivered whilst the bearer was in post, Alan Bissell J.P. waited until the moment he retired from the Flintshire Bench before lambasting procedures with which he (and others) had been forced to comply. His main outpouring was his belief that the concept of punishment had been diminished by the actions of government over many years. Certainly he would have received a letter from the Office for Judicial Complaints if he had made his remarks, which must have been co-ordinated with the press who reported them, a few weeks or months earlier.
Of course Grayling, like his predecessors, can and does produce volumes of statistics to show that whatever is the real situation crime is diminishing, police are not failing and the courts are more efficient than ever. But there is one factor that by its very nature cannot be abused by statisticians because it is a negative and everyone knows that negatives are very difficult to substantiate. And that is the increasing tendency of the Crown Prosecution Service to undercharge on assault from the summary charge to the most serious life threatening offences. Other forms of criminality eg fraud are also undercharged but for magistrates it is assault with which we are most familiar. I would posit that there is not a single colleague who has not sat on simple assault by beating and thought that the CPS was failing in its public duty of protection by not using the more serious charges that the case details warranted. The reason for such dereliction of duty in an organisation which has rid itself of 10%+ of its lawyers and is operating on a much reduced budget is not difficult to find. The other side of the same coin is well illustrated in a case on which I sat a few weeks ago. One simple incident when a young white woman who had been observed drinking from a can of cider and shouting at her friends pushed a black policeman in the back shouting “black trash” was charged with being drunk & disorderly, assault P.C. and s.5 Public Order Act racially aggravated. She was, as I recall, convicted by majority of all three offences and the CPS`s statistics were duly enhanced.
Is this the best way of applying the too oft repeated mantra, “We are the party of law `n order”? I wish Alan Bissell a well earned retirement from the bench. Long may his cup runneth over.