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, 30 September 2014

MORE NUMBERS



Is knife offending increasing or decreasing?  What proportion of such offending relates to youth? Is the rate of custodial sentencing for knife offences increasing or not?  All these questions and others related are here for your perusal courtesy of the Ministry of Justice.

Monday, 29 September 2014

POLITICAL PAGE FILLER



Perhaps because I am alert to the activities of our esteemed Justice Secretary and ignore the efforts of his colleagues to secure favourable press and media coverage that I find this snippet from the BuryTimes quite nauseating.  This politician has done more than any of his predecessors to reduce the role and effectivity   of our so called local system of summary justice.   His visit to the constituency of a sycophantic colleague ostensibly in connection with magistrates` courts has, surprise surprise, no comment by or inclusion of a local J.P.  They probably had no knowledge of this publicity stunt probably arranged by the local Tories in collusion with the first non lawyer Lord Chancellor.  We can expect more of this sort of page filler as May approaches.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

MALADMINISTRATION IN MAGISTRATES` COURTS



It is my opinion that maladministration in my court has increased measurably since 2012 and substantially since HMCS took over from the days of magistrates` courts` committees.  The latest figures from the Ministry of Justice on ineffective trials add more weight to that opinion. In 2013  there were 155,087 trials in magistrates` courts of which 27,247  (17.6%) were ineffective.  Of these ineffective trials  7,640 were owing to court maladministration; i.e. just under 5%  of the total trials  and 28% of the ineffective trials.    The 2nd quarter of this year shows that that  last number has risen to 29% and 18% of the total number of trials were ineffective.  In other words the problem is becoming worse.  I wonder if Chris Grayling will be braying about this most obvious indicator of his ability to undermine our justice system in magistrates` courts.  He will of course argue that the numbers are marginally better than 2006 before staff numbers in the courts and the CPS were decimated by the current administration.  Just how far he is prepared to go is indicated every day  by what he has done and is doing  to the probation service and our system of legal aid.   

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

NON CPS COURTS



Non CPS courts often provide the most stimulating of sittings where logical thought,  judgement and the ability to dissect legal argument are the basis of conclusions both on verdict and sentence.  I`m thinking  particularly of breaches of enforcement notices.  But on the other hand when a morning or afternoon is spent rubber stamping decisions on liability for the now defunct and discredited Child Support Agency despair is about the description best suited to put on line.  When Council Tax committals are also on the list one cannot but have some sympathy for a few of those who come before us.  They are the few whose lives are in such turmoil that any “safety net” provided by government or charity has netting with such gaps that one can only attempt to ameliorate their situation whilst applying the law as generously as possible.  It`s assumed we`ve progressed beyond the workhouse of  Victorian times but how far beyond?

At our last such sitting my colleagues and I left the building with the knowledge that as per our usual listing pattern it would be some months before we would again be assigned such a court. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

MOTORING COURT



It is common practice that a motoring court will comprise many dozen cases.  The last such sitting was no exception.  We had over sixty defendants listed with about two dozen having multiple charges.  There were twenty two appearances one of whom was of that well known tribe; the Freemen of England.  In the usual manner of those people he tried to overwhelm the court by his outspoken opinions of who and what were  fit to hear his case.  With a L/A who takes no nonsense and a chairman not known for his reticence he was persuaded to plead to “no insurance”  being advised it was a strict liability offence.  His “not guilty” resulted in a trial date being set and his response to  bench advice that the case would still proceed if he didn`t turn up was greeted with ,”Don`t you worry your worship I`ll be there with all my evidence”, whereupon he showed us all a thick pile of papers in a transparent envelope.  I`m sure my colleagues in November will be up to the task of providing justice although from my past experience it will require patience, tact and a firmly drawn  red line which, if breached, unlike that before the esteemed  chieftain  Mr B O`Bama  last year   should provoke sanctions.  We had two totter defendants, one of whom was represented,  arguing exceptional hardship. That particular gentleman might have felt his money was not well spent when his argument was rejected.    We accepted the other`s plea and banned him for 14 days.  Unusually there were two cases of  permission to drive as a defence against no insurance.  Both were rejected.  Two totters were disqualified for the mandatory six months and five other non appearances were summonsed to appear to argue why they also should not be disqualified as totters.  A speeder caught doing 104MPH in a 70 zone whilst driving his Aston Martin was quite relaxed when his fine and costs of over £1,000 plus four weeks disqualification were announced.  Compared to the Swiss courts he got off lightly.  Presumably he could afford to employ a driver for the prescribed period.  A German gentleman earning over  £2,000 per week after tax was most surprised that even with a guilty plea he was fined an amount commensurate with his income for no insurance. 

All in all just a normal sitting in the motoring court.