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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Saturday, 28 March 2015


Roughly a third of all visitors to this site linger for more than one hour.  I find that very gratifying as I also note that about a half of all visits are by those who are first timers. For those reasons and some more to be explained in due course I will not be posting for perhaps a week or so whilst with my limited techie ability I will,  after about six years,  attempt a re-design of this blog.

Friday, 27 March 2015


My very last sitting was on motoring and I learned something new.  Re s.172; most provincial police forces follow up a guilty on that charge with pursuit of the substantive matter which initiated the procedure.  That is excluding the country`s largest police force;  The Metropolitan Police.  Don`t ask me why but the motto is that we learn something new every sitting; even the very last.....ever!

Thursday, 26 March 2015


 Our lives are ruled by numbers.  Very often those numbers are translated consciously or otherwise as risk.  After that awful air crash in France it is unlikely that there were sufficient cancellations from nervous intending passengers for airlines to consider reducing flights because we assume the risk to us as individuals is miniscule.  And so is the risk relatively speaking of being  prosecuted for using a mobile phone whilst driving.  About 750,000 Fixed Penalty Notices have been issued since the offence was established in 2006. In 2011 there were 171,000 such FPNs issued for the offence.  Prosecutions in Magistrates`Courts for the offence were 35,397 in 2011 with a conviction rate of 91%.  It has been estimated by some that 10% of all driving convictions are for use of mobile whilst driving.  Current figures are hard to obtain.  Perhaps that is because of the reduced number of tickets being issued owing to the greatly reduced number of police patrol cars on the roads of this country and that is a direct result of the coalition`s policy of worshipping at the temple of the NHS while policing, courts and defence of the realm are starved of funds. 

Nevertheless those who refuse a FPN and/or plead not guilty by post are entitled for the process of summary trial to determine their guilt or innocence.  Every court in the land spends a good deal of its time on motoring matters which is why Grayling is so determined to fast track on - line facilities to “simplify” such “simple” cases.  As per past experience there are always one or two defendants per sitting who have pleaded not guilty by post to use of a mobile phone whilst driving and/or  make no further contact with the court and yet who fail to attend for trial.  What complete and utter fools these people are. Unless procedural failings are found or police perjury is suspected conviction in absence is virtually certain. A typical case earlier this week was J who was found guilty in his absence; fined £200 with costs of £640 and a surcharge of £20.  So my advice to those caught using a mobile whilst driving is to pay the FPN of £100 and accept the 3 penalty points with grace.  And if there is a hope that their case is to be one of the 9% found not guilty at trial that can only happen if they turn up for their trial with the limited defences available.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


At last a change in police procedure which will be to the benefit of the innocent until proved guilty suspect insofar as police bail is to be restricted to a maximum of 28 days.  An extension to three months can be authorised by a senior [currently of unknown rank] police officer.  Beyond that the police will be required to argue their case in front of magistrates in open court.  It will prove interesting to discover what the threshold will be for a bench or DJ to approve an extension and if so for what period.

During a period in which we were told that every new law would be accompanied by the repeal of those now outdated the Justice Ministry has excelled even its own well rehearsed reputation for the spewing out of new “this” and reformed “that” by this announcement of new legislation much of which is completely unnecessary.

Whilst the digitalisation of  pleas to minor  motoring offences eg no insurance (sic)  is not the primary reason this initiative will certainly be another nail in the coffin for magistrates` current responsibilities in a court environment.

A recent survey on the attitudes of judges provides some insight into the inner opinions of a hitherto closed group of high level civil servants.  The very high response rate makes the outcomes very interesting reading.

Monday, 23 March 2015


Sometimes those who appear before us either through ignorance or arrogance or a combination of both do nothing to help themselves despite the best efforts of their representatives who have their foot on the accelerator of remorse when their unmanageable clients are holding heavily on the handbrake.

Gladstone was such a man.  He was 24 with a long history of offending, unemployed and by three women  he had fathered four children the oldest of whom we were told was six and the youngest four months the mother of whom was pregnant yet again.  Six months previously whilst on a suspended sentence order now expired he had committed two offences (one of which was either way) within twenty four hours against the above mentioned girl friend.   A previous bench had sentenced him to supervision and two requirements for those matters. He had been before the courts twice since for breach of these requirements and each time the original sentence had been revoked and he had been re sentenced with more stringent requirements.   He stood nonchalantly in the dock with a knitted hat on his head, his hands in his pockets and his jaws chewing gum at a furious rate.  From the bench it was remarked that some might think his action and appearance might suggest he had little respect for the court.  His lawyer motioned him to take off the headgear, take his hands from his pockets and to remove the gum.  He did what was advised with a clear indication of his contempt for those in court.  Lawyers generally go through the motions seeking to mitigate the results of their clients` behaviour.  Our Mr Rumpole displayed all his legal eloquence as was his duty culminating in a plea that he be given that one more chance to turn the behavioural corner.  The court probation officer was asked by the bench if he knew why a curfew had not been suggested in previous PSRs.  He replied that as far as he knew Gladstone had explained his difficulty in compliance with such an order insofar as he would not have been able to visit his then pregnant girl friend with whom he did not share accommodation.  Horace R confirmed that as per the situation just described by the probation officer  his current relationship with his aforementioned pregnant girl friend precluded his client`s compliance with a curfew order.  Apparently he lived with his mother whose house was some distance away. When he concluded that the bench should consider a fine or a conditional discharge in these unusual circumstances three experienced magistrates strained their facial muscles so that their innermost emotions could be  kept under control.   Those who describe our courts as a form of theatre have a point. All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.

In the retiring room we considered that a long and onerous curfew would be a just outcome.  We called our L/A who after some hesitation told us that owing to expiry of the original SSO when the breaches were committed such a disposal was not lawful.  Now my memory might be a bit confused on that detail and if that explanation is wrong I hold up my hand.  The upshot anyway was that we had to start again.  We decided to impose a custodial sentence suspended for a year for the original either way matter with  a very onerous curfew.  A similarly suspended concurrent shorter custodial period was imposed for the summary offence.  After pronouncement Gladstone indicated he wanted the curfew address to be that of the mother of his youngest child and mother – to - be again,   against whom his activities had brought him to court in the first place.  We ordered that the address on the court list......his mother`s house, be the location of his home curfew.  He seemed irritated.