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, 2 October 2013
WHAT IT SAYS ON THE TIN
My last sitting saw me in the courtroom for six hours. Those unaware of the wall to wall inefficiencies to be encountered in magistrates` courts might utter, “so what”. They would be right to do so. The time wasted in courts presided over by me and my colleagues has to be seen and experienced to be believed. I won`t rehearse the reasons. Everyone bar the number crunchers and greasy pole climbers at HMCTS and Justice Ministry who behave like the three monkeys is well aware that the withdrawal of capital from the system has wrought changes which if not readily reversed will have ever lasting detrimental effects on what was once one of the world`s fairest justice systems where in timely fashion it was almost beyond reasonable doubt that the innocent were acquitted and the guilty punished with punishment appropriate to the offences committed.
But returning to my recent all day session; the morning was taken up by the trial of a youth of nineteen; a refugee from a war torn central African state, who was charged with assault. When he was identified we asked our L/A to have him confirm his date of birth. William Hill would have given odds on he was no more that 15 given his slight build and height of about 5ft 6 inches. However he insisted he was 19 and CPS called the complainant, a cruiserweight to the accused`s featherweight status. African boy spoke a very educated English and displayed a certain confidence bordering on arrogance when he gave his version of events. Severe cross examination did not put him off his stride. The evidence, however, was so overwhelming that we wondered how legal advice had allowed him at this 3rd listing to continue with a not guilty plea.
With his previous good character, a part time evening job at a supermarket and confirmation of his excellent grades at college we were satisfied that a conditional discharge and advice to avoid alcohol which seemed to be responsible for his errant behaviour was an appropriate disposal. The relief on the face of his mother in the public gallery was an indication that his offending might have been nipped in the bud.
Our afternoon was occupied by the case of a Sudanese man from the Nubian region. He was about 60 and walked with the aid of walking sticks in each hand. He had the classical features of his race. His jet black skin, sculptured cheekbones and classical brow would not have been misplaced on a hieroglyph from ancient Egypt. His authoritative manner matched his appearance. He had previously been tried in absence and found guilty of s.4 public order and was before us with his lawyer applying to have his case re-opened. After lengthy legal argument which I personally found particularly intellectually stimulating he failed. Post sentence we wondered just what damage he could have been capable of if he could have moved freely without his crippled lower limbs being assisted by the walking sticks occupying his hands.
The standard has been set. I doubt that there will be another non remand session before 2014 where my all day sitting will be what it says on the tin.