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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Thursday, 26 February 2015


As mentioned in an earlier post  this week I have had a brief  summary from my spy who attended Transform Justice`s recent seminar at the House of Lords chaired by Shadow Justice Minister Lord Jeremy Beecham on the subject of magistrates` training and development.  Of about seventy attendees the majority was magistrates.  The essence of the 90 minute discourse was Transform Justice`s Penelope Gibbs` one woman effort to professionalise the training of the magistracy of which she was a member for a short period a decade ago.  Her sincerity was clear and her previous experience on the bench informed  much of her comments.   Her arguments rested upon the experience in Scotland of the recently newly constituted Children`s Hearings Panels and the training of their panel members expounded by two senior officials involved.  Francis Crook who runs the Howard League of Penal Reform contributed mainly by describing specific examples which suited her long standing position of wishing to see the demise of custodial sentences under six months which effectively means the emasculation of the magistrates` courts lay benches.  Her presence was akin to inviting a turkey to comment on traditional Christmas menus.  There were four or five contributions from the audience which were not unduly critical of a need to improve training but which gave the impression that in the current circumstances professionalising the training of  Justices of the Peace as unpaid employees would have to be undertaken on a very careful path to retain their support.  Penelope Gibbs informed the audience that although invited to participate the Magistrates Association had declined.


  1. "...emasculation of the magistrates' courts lay benches". So why is the removal of custodial sentences under six months "emasculation"? In my nearly two years on the bench - a naive newbie still - I have repeatedly asked for evidence of the effectiveness of short prison sentences. There appears to be none. They are pointless. The untrained, unprofessional mob that makes up the bench are certainly not capable of administering a system that will allow them to give out longer prison sentences. The poor, oppressed individuals that make up the majority of defendants in the summary justice system are certainly not going to put back on the straight and narrow by prison sentences, long or short.
    The use of the word emasculation - depriving a man of his male role or identity - tells the story.
    The author obviously feels that being “tough” and masculine is the defining characteristic of a magistrate. Having been emasculated he will no longer be able to shaft the poor.

    1. Are you really,I mean, really, a magistrate?

      "Untrained, unprofessional mob" That'll be the same untrained, unprofessional mob that you are a part of, then.

      If the views you have expressed are really how you feel then how on earth can you continue to sit? For that matter, how on earth did you ever get appointed in the first place and why did you apply?

      You seem to have no focus on the fact that the "Poor, oppressed individuals" you refer to have choices whereas their victims do not. You offer no alternative suggestion to custody for the recidivists for whom all the other disposals have been tried.

      It is not for the judiciary to pontificate or be swayed by the efficacy or otherwise of sentencing. It is not for the judiciary to assume the role of social worker or to be champion of the underclass who prey on the innocent.

      If you are what the magistracy is now appointing then indeed it is time for a root branch change.

    2. The purpose of sentencing is to punish and reform people. I think the point being made is that it is not fulfilling the role of reformation as there are the same people going through the system regularly. This is a failure of the justice system, and something needs to be done about it. If the only courses of action are ineffective at rehabilitating people and/or stopping them from committing crime, you've effectively done nothing to solve a problem and created a revolving door.

      As for your points, one can criticise a group that they are a part of. I do so regularly. If you don't acknowledge the flaws in a system, you can't expect it to get better. That's why you stick with the group and try to change it from the inside, or do your best from that position.

  2. Who is going to stand up for the "underclass" then? If it was a medical intervention would you say "it is not for doctors to decide on the efficacy or otherwise of sentencing"? A ridiculous assertion.
    I hoped I would be representative of the new intake and there are many who share my views. I resigned today you will be pleased to hear.

    1. Thank you. you undoubtedly made the right decision.

      (As far as I know, doctors aren't involved in sentencing. They exercise their knowledge to determine the best treatment for their patient. A slightly different role I think).