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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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 He had been before the courts twice since for breach of these requirements and each time the original sentence had been revoked and he had been re sentenced with more stringent requirements.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.

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