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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Monday, 18 November 2013

PRESCIENT OR WHAT?



It is exactly four years ago that I posted my first thoughts under the headline title of this blog {at its previous site}.  That was almost 600,000 page views ago.  During that month, November 2009, I posted a further five times.  The content of four of them encompassed the excessive and inappropriate use of police cautions, the removal of defendant choice in either way offences, the re-structuring of ACPO and the previous  government`s indication of  its disdain for the magistracy at least in its current format.

It is only now, four years on, that the subject of cautions has become a topic of the general media with a likelihood that at least some form of brake will be put on this activity and that police will be made to apply it only under appropriate conditions as was envisaged in the first place.  But the old story of giving police limited powers and they will take them to extremes has been confirmed time and time again; the Terrorism Act being a case in point. 

LASPO has nibbled at the edges of the principle of either way offences and the pleading that follows.  I am unchanged in my belief that having battered lawyers into revolt over fees the last thing they would now consider would be effectively removing further fee income by fewer cases being heard at the crown court. However the principle is IMHO unassailable; defendants should have no right to choose mode of trial.  No other jurisdiction offers this concept.  And the argument over citizen`s  right to trial by jury has no logic when a single District Judge(MC) can preside over trials at magistrates` courts.

The current government is even more robust than its predecessor in its efforts to reduce the magistracy to a local form of arbitration and/or reconciliation panel. Justices of the Peace who, 20 years ago, more or less  ran their own courts, have increasingly become almost nonentities in the hierarchy within Her Majesty`s Courts and Tribunal Service. Government`s  ambition to have the  magistrates` court entirely under the control of a single District Judge(MC) is now a no brainer.  Of course there are denials all round from all quarters but like global warming it will be upon us the only caveat being that the time scale is open to debate.

And as for ACPO………probably the least said the better.

3 comments:

  1. Spot on. I have despaired for years at the voices raised against the abolition of the right to elect (trial by jury); some of our most eminent champions of civil liberties yet of their objections to trial and sentencing by a single DJ(MC) - total silence.

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  2. I, too, find it incongruous that relatively trivial matters can wend their way to (over-worked?) Crown Courts. In the event of conviction, what are the likely costs and the likelihood of their recovery?

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  3. I cannot get used to the term "District Judge". It just conjures up the image of some gin-preserved malarial old colonial buffer with a solar topi and fly whisk trying to dispenses justice to some primitive natives in a jungle clearing, some clapped out version of Sanders of the River.

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