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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Thursday, 19 December 2013


Compared to the situation twenty years ago magistrates retain little autonomy on the running of the courts named for them. There are of course minor variations across the country but the essence of the current situation is that we are treated by HMCTS as unpaid employees and that we are in a position where we must obey the dictates of Justices` Clerks some of whom, as senior civil servants, look upon their posts more as greasy poles at the top of which are some of the most powerful positions in the country.  

The extent of this control was apparent to me recently.  A call came through to the retiring room about 1.45p.m. from a colleague due to sit in the afternoon.  She had been unable to speak to anyone in the justices` liaison office; the line had gone to voicemail since 1.00p.m. when she first rang. Her simple message was that a family emergency had required her attention and she would not be available as a chairman.  Discussing this with colleagues we quickly concluded a minor shift in the three afternoon benches` compositions ensuring that the usual preferences…..gender and ethnicity were incorporated and informed the first of the legal advisors who appeared a few minutes later.  But, we were told, the situation had to go to the bench legal manager who would make the decision.  In due course he rubber stamped the situation. 

And this is a simple example of how we are considered as unpaid employees.  We are empowered to deprive a person of his/her liberty for six months but considered unable, knowing the requirements which are desirable, to constitute a few courts in an emergency. 

Magistrates` Courts?   You`re having a laugh.


  1. Not sure why you accepted what the legal adviser said. After all, the bench legal manager can't instruct the magistrates to change their decision and sit differently. In my LJA it is the magistrates who decide how to adjust the courts in short notice situations like this. You're right that HMCTS is muscling in on judicial territory but sometimes, as on this occasion, it is because magistrates are letting them.

    1. "it is the magistrates who decide how to adjust the courts in short notice situations like this"..............

      That`s my point Sub appears that HMCTS via instructions presumably from Justices` Clerk down to legal manager has taken that power.

  2. Not sure why you approved what the lawful advisor said. After all, the regular lawful administrator can't advise the magistrates to modify their choice and sit in a different way. In my LJA it is the magistrates who choose how to modify the legal courts in brief observe circumstances like this. You're right that HMCTS is muscling in on legal area but sometimes, as on this event, it is because magistrates are allowing them to.

    magistrates court