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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Wednesday, 12 February 2014
A REGULAR OCCURRENCE
I think it was an impatience with the way in which the whole paraphernalia of court and legal processes was stymied by gross inefficiencies intolerable in any properly managed organisation which prompted me some five years ago to put these frustrations into some form of coherent English called The Justice of the Peace blog. Little has changed. On December 20th last year I posted inter alia that inefficiency within HMCTS was responsible for around 28% of non effective trials in magistrates` courts. A day`s events a few weeks ago showed that administrative failures within my own court`s administration are the cause of more than merely trials being non effective.
The non CPS morning court was surprisingly smooth running. Everyone who was listed duly appeared. The lawyer for the local council was fully prepared with colleagues to back him up. Defendants` lawyers were in place and ready to go about their duties. Indeed such was everyone`s efficiency that we had completed all our business by about 12.15p.m. There being apparently no further non CPS business we thanked council lawyer for his efficiency and had an early lunch. Turn the clock forward to 2.00p.m. and unexpectedly two more matters were listed; also non CPS but that afternoon sitting was an altogether different kettle of legal fish.
Mrs M. was listed to appeal against a noise abatement notice. There was no sign of said lady nor a representative of the local council the latter having apparently left the building after having appeared before my bench until 12.15p.m. Further enquiries by our clerk elicited the information that the adjournment notice which ought to have been sent to both parties subsequent to the previous hearing had not been sent. The case was re-listed. Our second and final matter was one of a defendant`s claim of wasted costs. Apparently a previous hearing had resulted in a situation where it had been agreed that maladministration by the council had occurred and the current day`s hearing was to try to come to some agreement between the parties. The defendant`s solicitors had been informed that the case had been listed at our other building that very morning. Counsel had turned up and presented herself there on time only to be informed that there had been misinformation by the court office and that the case had now been hurriedly listed in my court at 2.00p.m. So far so good……..She stood before us at about 2.15p.m. H o w e v e r…….nobody in that other court building had bothered to contact the same lawyer representing the same council who had been present with a team of four assistants before my own court that morning and who would have been able to delay his departure and do his job had he been made aware of the changed situation. So a simple matter of sorting out wasted costs was compounded by probable further wasted costs only this time against HMCTS.
We enquired of our clerk the likely consequences for those admin staff who had failed miserably in their simple duties. Unhesitatingly she told us; zero consequences. And she ought to know. As she said to us; for her and her colleagues such events are daily occurrences and happen as regularly as the sun rises and sets.