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, 7 November 2013


The Magistracy is trumpeted as being a uniquely English institution allowing local justice to be dispensed by local people. With certain caveats I would agree. The Scottish and Irish versions are not quite the same. Individual benches must follow strict guidelines in performing some duties and are most locally idiosyncratic in others. Individual benches control their own rota, ideally placing mixed sex and ethnic benches where possible. Rota systems are very variable with some benches following outdated local procedures that should have gone out with ladies` compulsory hats and cigarette holders de rigueur in the retiring room whilst others perform this vital function using common sense and the latest soft ware.

One vital aspect of bench representation is the Bench Training and Development Committee. This can be appointed internally or have individuals elected annually. But here`s the b u t....if an elective committee only those attending the annual election meeting can vote. No postal or proxy voting is allowed. At my bench about one third of members turn up....of course not always the same third. To allow change in the voting system or to allow benches to alter their own voting procedures government would have to table a statutory instrument. Perhaps there is an organisation of magistrates which might consider lobbying for this extension of democracy or is that akin to asking the pot to call the kettle black?


  1. Minor point but actually it is not the ‘government’ that makes the statutory Rules that govern the election/appointment of BTDCs. These Rules are made by the Lord Chief Justice – though before making them he is required to consult the Lord Chancellor.