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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Friday, 7 March 2014

HANG UP MY GAVEL



When the Lord Chief Justice delivers a speech entitled “RESHAPING JUSTICE” it would be foolish as well as churlish not to note its content with some seriousness. Much of what he said to “Justice” on March 3rd  might have been of interest philosophically to Justices of the Peace as it would have been to many other groups and individuals but that part of his oration concerning the organisation and functioning of the magistrates` courts system deserves the minute attention of any magistrates who still believe that their future as arbiters of fact within our legal system  for 93% of criminal cases which begin and end under our jurisdiction will still resemble current processes in a decade are living in the land of clouds and cuckoos. 

In his opening he stated that, “The first (purpose)  is to make clear that our system of justice does need reshaping to deal with the fundamental change that is occurring in the role of the State. It is  retrenching. The budget for justice is being       reduced substantially.  We must ensure that our system remains able to maintain the rule of  law by administering justice effectively, speedily and impartially in this new age. As a senior civil servant  he refers to “retrenchment” and “reform”  more than once.  Perhaps his position precludes direct references to the fundamental importance to our democracy of a legal process which is available to all our citizens regardless of their positions in the hierarchy of a benign capitalist society.  He avoids any comment on the withdrawal of legal aid from many participants in both civil and criminal courts but alludes to its consequences of self representing litigants and defendants as a justification for courts becoming more inquisitorial.  I suppose that dovetails nicely with the simple prediction that it is inevitable  that fewer and fewer  lawyers  will be available for poorly remunerated court work.  He offers the expedient of trials without jury but avoids any comment on the constitution or quality standards eg language ability, of jurors.  He specifically gives a nod to J.P.s sitting as wingers to District Judges in certain proceedings; an absolute certainty IMHO as I have blogged for years.  Efforts by government and magistrates` representatives to paint magistrates` increased  out of court  activities current or proposed as beneficial to all and sundry are nothing but a sop to our rapidly approaching future diminished role. 

I am fortunate enough to have been appointed to this position when it had a truly worthwhile and unique place in our judicial system. I will not be sorry when I hang up my non existent never been used gavel.

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