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.

Comments are usually moderated. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment. If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Friday, 9 January 2015


And the Lord said let there be light and there was light; and his lordship said let there be law and there was law. And the law begat offenders and the offenders begat defendants and the defendants begat judges and the judges begat trials and the trials begat witnesses and the witnesses begat complainants and the complainants begat victims and the victims begat czars and the czars……….

Before recognised systems of judicial order justice was often a personal matter. The ancient Israelites or perhaps it was Hammurabi aware of the folly of unending tribal disputes instituted limits to the extent of revenge by an injured party. We recognise this as an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth: ie retribution must not be greater than the original crime. As far back as the first millennium the concept of “blood money” followed this concept in Europe. This tradition has been followed in Islam. Known as Diya the Qur'an prescribes this so that compensation can be demanded and not retribution. Indeed with my limited knowledge I understand that some Arabic societies continue to allow victims to have their justice in this form.  Rarely did righteous outpourings prevent those sentenced to hang from meeting their maker at the end of all hope and a rope.

Public influence on sentencing and outcomes probably began its current ascendancy as a result of the wrongful convictions of the 1970s and 80s combined with a realisation that there were many bad practices within police forces and by police officers. Increased public input into the justice system where it is de rigueur to state and restate that the “victim” is the centrality of that system has increased the amount of ignorant ranting about sentencing and sentencers such that “Guidelines” must be followed unless cogent reasons militate against such outcomes.

Last  year a member of my family went on holiday in Sicily; a destination I have yet to visit. I was reminded immediately of “vendetta”, one of many Italian words which have entered our language and which conjures up an image of an ineffective legal system being overtaken by the personal pursuit undertaken by an aggrieved party seeking appropriate retribution from a supposed perpetrator.

In England, however, the so-called 'Blood Money Act' was repealed in 1818. The law and the state took full control of punishment. My overtly sensitive social antennae tell me that the ancient philosophy is trying hard to be regenerated along the lines of an undead zombie. An apparent trend to a “victim centred” justice system is perhaps the thin edge of a resurrected wedge; an unwelcome change IMHO to our long evolved situation where the state assumes responsibility for the treatment of offenders and is answerable at the ballot box for its success or otherwise in meeting citizens` needs. The Leveson Inquiry and its conclusions lent credit to the thought that this is the accepted new approach to victim redress. It is a dangerous approach. A simple magistrate has no credibility in criticism of a lordship`s knowledge of the law and its application but along with anybody else I can articulate concerns regarding his philosophy of how a fundamental tenet of a society can be undermined in an apparent good cause. Victims must feel that their concerns are acknowledged by the “system”. Victim Support, Witness Care and the importance of Compensation have had increasingly front of the  financial queue status. Indeed offenders` financial payments in addition to other disposals were vastly increased a few months ago ostensibly to fund the aforementioned activities. But it must be the courts that exercise and control retribution even against journalistic law breakers; not the Dowlers or the McCanns or the Grants or the Moseleys etc. however much their grievances seem to cry out for revenge. Those grievances should be against the non application of the law and those who contributed to that. That revenge should not be against the concepts underlying a free society.

This extended preamble has been prompted by the amount of cant in print and other media over the goings on in a dismal northern town with a football team unable to score goals.  Well; they have certainly changed direction with the current controversy and own goal of the “yes we will, no we won`t sign a convicted rapist”.   It is an affront to natural justice that both the shadow sports minister Clive Efford and the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd both seized the moment to further their own political purposes by publicly making it clear their opposition to Ched Evans  resuming his career as a professional footballer.  It is apparent that one person`s opportunity for rehabilitation is another`s opportunity to curry favour with the mob and its lynch mentality.  The law is as it is written.  There are those who argue that eg a doctor or broadcaster would not be allowed to resume his occupation in similar circumstances so why not the footballer who is a “role model”.  Medicine and many other professions have their own legal protocols to deal with miscreants.  Broadcasters have a public duty which cannot tolerate compromise.  To equate this case with those is pure ignorant thinking. As far as being so called role models; footballers or other professional sportsmen are just that; people who are at the top of their game.  They do not ask for their moral outlook on life to be part of their public personas.

This whole sorry saga is taking us down a road where the law and our legal system have no right to be.  This “victim centred” approach is driven directly from the 1960s and the women`s liberation movement which fifty years ago had a great deal of justification.  The shrill voices of recent days however have become another step nudging us towards a system of law which is an affront to the nation  which celebrates the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta.     

1 comment:

  1. You put it very well. It has been a nauseating sight to watch the lynch mob spewing out their vitriol together with politicians jumping onto their bandwagon. I fear it may be the same mentality that always refers to alleged victims of historic sexual assaults as "survivors" or campaigns against anonymity for those investigated for alleged rape, and I do understand the argument about encouraging additional witnesses etc.