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, 25 June 2014


However dismayed my colleagues and I might be over the crumbling of the magistrates court system for those whose livelihood requires them to fulfil their court appointed functions I have nothing but admiration. Those in the justices` liaison office who are forever juggling names attempting, often in vain, to have three person benches still have a smile in their voices when cancelling sittings for some reason or another. It is a not an inexplicable paradox that now with our bench at a strength of about 360 cf 165 pre Clarke we seem to have more and more benches constituted with only two J.P.s. They and our legal advisors daily come to work with clear knowledge that every day is a struggle to keep running a system of summary justice which is failing them and the public. Whilst the NHS receives almost daily headlines for one reason or another, our justice system without which there is no free democratic society of any colour, is steadily and quietly being eroded. Unfortunately nothing on the horizon suggests any improvement.

Having moaned and groaned enough this morning a recent sitting in our remand court was as varied as is usually expected. A 71 year old of previous good character was before us having pleaded guilty to assault by beating. Although her case was considered as “road rage” and the “book” sentence was at least to have reports from the probation service we made use of the provision available to fine her at the D rate. After we had challenged the low level of income and assets she had declared on the means form she left court having paid almost £2,000 on the spot for her temporary loss of self control. Two cases where the custody threshold had clearly been breached were dealt with. The prolific shoplifter whose previous ran to four pages was sentenced to an immediate custodial sentence. Similarly the offender who was before us for a third driving with excess alcohol and for a third time driving disqualified was given the maximum allowed by law. In both cases our duty of public protection left us in no doubt as to sentence although there are still critics who would object to prison for shoplifters.

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