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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Saturday, 11 January 2014

WHEN I WERE A LAD



Not too long ago I was in conversation with an elderly gentleman who actually began his retelling to me of an old story, “When I were a lad……..” If nothing else it made me realise my grey hairs were of little significance.  But I`ve been doing this job as J.P. for long enough to note that an undercurrent of changes over the last couple of decades has swept many along in its wake without their even noticing.    I am not referring to the changes in legislation which have salami sliced defendants` rights of innocence until proved guilty, increased the risks to individual liberty, procedural changes which some might think have emasculated sentencers`  options and placing victims as the be all and end all around which all else must orbit but to those attitudes and thinking processes which drive us all unseen and unheard until……………



We had had enough down time to consume a three course dinner never mind another cup of coffee when we were asked to hear a late application for special measures.   As is often the case in such scenarios the CPS agent began to relate the facts until she was told by yours truly to first make an application for the matter to be heard out of time.  For a moment her composure slipped as if such a detail were almost a foregone conclusion.  After we had  noted that the case management form dated in September (this was a December sitting) had  not been marked for special measures she told us that the complainant in this non DV assault had informed the officer in the case in October that she wanted screens. The delay in application was for the  simple reason  that the CPS had overlooked the case.  We allowed the application by a majority decision and heard the substantive arguments including defence`s objections and our L/A`s  remarks to consider if witness evidence would be enhanced by screens etc etc after which I consulted my wingers one of whom was awaiting his first appraised sitting  as a chairman.    To my surprise he turned to me and said we should ask our L/A her opinion on what we should conclude.  My reply not surprisingly was that we were the people put here to make that decision; not the clerk.  Unfortunately that was not enough and he persisted to such a degree that I retired the bench from the courtroom.  In the corridor   I made it very clear that I was disturbed that having been a magistrate for over five years he was still unsure of where his responsibilities lay.  Subsequently  special measures were granted.



I have firm memories of my own first five or six years on the bench.  Generally the middle chair`s occupant was a confident,  articulate and when necessary a dominant personality.   My contemporaries  of the period and I were always aware when we were occasionally  listed with chairmen who were bereft of these qualities.    Perhaps modern selection is fundamentally of a different (poorer) structure because I remember in court when I were a lad…………………

5 comments:

  1. It does no one any good to hear sniping. The other magistrate is not here to defend their position, and all you are doing is bringing the whole into disrepute.

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  2. Thank you anonymous. IMHO your comment would have more validity with a signature.

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    Replies
    1. Why? If I use Anonymous, or any other username it makes no different to my comment. I could make up any name. Would it be better if I called myself Judge Dread, or Judge Judge, Dicky Bristow, Bob Monkhouse, or one of the Herrington twins?

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    2. Your comment`s insightfulness signed off as a J.P. would differ from that of an "outsider".

      This comment is now closed.

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  3. Hopefully your appraisal form reflected what had happened. In my experience, even 'experienced' magistrates have sometimes sought the view of the LA (other than on a legal point) ad of course that is unacceptable. We cannot say on appraisal forms whether someone is suitable or not, merely to suggest that further training may be in order. What DOES bring the system into disrepute is the difficulty of removing justices who just aren't up to it!

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