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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Tuesday, 12 August 2014


On the bench when I`ve been in a situation where the term “contempt of court” has entered my mind it has been associated with the words and/or actions of an individual usually in the dock at that moment.  Like all my colleagues have experienced at some time defendants have presented wearing all manner of apparel.  Females have appeared dressed as if for a night on the town or as a female colleague remarked earlier this year on another sitting, “she`s wearing £2,000 worth of gear,” on the appearance of a middle aged woman on shoplifting charges. The male defendant can be dressed for the street or in his best(only) dark suit, white shirt and tie or during the recent hot spell in shirt and shorts.  But I have never had cause or desire to consider manner of dress a consideration for contempt.  Colleagues in Tamworth, however, took a different view when they were confronted in the dock by a man with a casual attitude to T shirts and their suitability for court. I have to say that I disagree with them.  It is very dangerous ground when appearance leads to such considerations as contempt of court.  This apparent  imposition of standards is more likely than not IMHO to have the opposite effect intended; ie contempt for the middle class mores of an out of touch bench and that in turn does not improve the concept of judgement by one`s peers who are representative of the community as a whole such being the concept of local justice expounded by the huffing and puffing great and good.  If 18 year olds can be recruited to the magistracy, and I consider that a ridiculous attempt to enlarge the "diversity"  idea,  then surely we must be open to dress standards more attuned to those acceptable to 18 year olds?

1 comment:

  1. 60s pop star Wayne Fontana appeared at a Crown Court a few years back dressed as Lady Justice. I have a recollection he was rebuked and threatened with contempt if he did not dress more appropriately