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, 16 January 2014
SUMMARY JUSTICE TRANSFORMED OR BEING SQUEEZED DRY?
Every so often one can read in one local newspaper or another the furore over the imminent closing of a library. When the closure is of a local hospital`s maternity unit or A & E department the noise of resistance becomes deafening. Yet about 100 magistrates` courts have been closed since 2012 with never a whisper. The reason for the silence of course is that most people have no contact with the courts system. It is a place of compulsion in one form or another and not of compassion. My own opinion has been posted here from time to time. To date, outside the specialist media, little has been mentioned of the historic changes already being made and contemplated for the future of the lay magistracy. There has been virtually no support from the legal profession to counter the increasing numbers of District Judges(M.C.) being appointed. Considering that probably a majority of D.J.s past, present and future comes from the ranks of solicitors the self serving non opinions of the Law Society are understandable. Criminal lawyers with diminishing workloads and incomes are fighting like ferrets in a sack for the limited numbers of Deputy District Judge appointments offered every year. The Bar, which rushes to the barricades when jury trial is questioned, stays silent when discussion is broached on the ethics of a single professional judge dealing out summary justice. The general press has virtually ignored this changing face of summary justice which is being squeezed dry like a lemon.
Two years ago a former magistrate founded the charity Transform Justice. Last year it published a thoughtful treatise on the lay magistracy. For some reason it was ignored until it was picked up yesterday by The Times (behind its paywall). It provides a remarkably lucid and coherent account of where we are as magistrates and how we got there. It is available here.