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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Friday, 15 November 2013


Interrogatively the utterance “are we coming or going” can be considered as being written or said without anger or accusation but substitute “they” for “we” and the phrase takes on a definite meaning of lack of confidence in the activity in question. And thus just as a new chairman is appointed to lead the Sentencing Council with intentions to carry on the prescriptive actions of his predecessor The Lord Chief Justice informs us that he is, in line with the procedures of his political master, putting the subject of wearing the niqab in court to public consultation.

My simple mind finds these two activities by such senior authorities confusing in their juxtaposition. Just what topic should be affected by so called public debate and what should be so heavily ordered as to remove the last remnants of any wriggle room for sentencers? I have my own thoughts on the niqab but I am today interested only in the thought processes of those great and good in the legal world. They all now are eg chanting the mantra of the victim being at the centre of the justice system. Whatever happened to the concept of the state being the impartial arbiter of punishment to fit the crime? Is a victim with no family to be considered a factor in the sentencing of an arsonist cf a mother or brother with a sad victim statement? Because the former has nobody grieving should the offender be dealt with any differently from the other criminal? Stranger upon stranger crime is a two way affair; neither aggressor nor victim is involved with any consideration for anyone else. I presume the theory is that of “outcomes”. This principle it could be argued was laid to rest recently in the matter of the successful appeal in R v Hughes (Appellant). Mr Hughes had been convicted of two offences under the new section 3ZB, namely for causing the death of Mr Dickinson by dangerous driving at time when he was uninsured and without full driving licence  but exonerated from any blame as to his causing the accident..

The matter of the niqab in court should not be one for me or any of my colleagues to make however strongly opinionated we might be; it should be directed by the Lord Chief Justice in the interests of justice. When parliament is extremely unlikely to debate a return of capital punishment to consider that the public should have a collective opinion on wearing of a contentious cultural garb is dangerous for our already precarious regard for the democratic process and equality for all before the law.

It seems coalition government leads to following from behind. Equivocation rarely begets satisfactory results.


  1. Another excellent post but isn't it a shame that other more widely quoted blogs don't take up the same topics that you raise?

    1. Thanks for the kind comment. I began this blog exactly four years ago on the other site and even now having closed it in August it still has 1000-1500 views daily. Anyway thanks for reading and spread the word.

    2. Yes I agree with Anon above. Even though I find your tone sometimes somewhat curmudgeonly (!), your comments and topics are always interesting.

      You're quite right that the LJC should decide. This is an issue blown out of all proportion in any case and putting it to public consultation makes it more so. Is he going to publish the results of the consultation? I bet not. The majority saying off with the heads - sorry niq'aabs - and he deciding no problem with it. I don't think so.

      Of course, if lots of judges and magistrates are already deciding guilt or innocence by the defendant's demeanour then it won't matter!

  2. A nice item by Will Self on Radio 4 today (A Point of View) touching on this topic.