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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015


During my time on the bench I had the enormous benefit of having had as a colleague four first class District Judges. Each one in his and her own way was a superb communicator, teacher and advisor. One common factor that each of those people emphasised to the bench as a collective and to me personally was that our powers in court were identical to theirs. This certainly boosted my confidence when I became a chairman and I have no reason to think that many colleagues did not have similar experiences.

One aspect of the job that one quickly learned was whilst not necessarily parroting pronouncements like a ventriloquist’s dummy one must be somewhat circumspect in anything one said from the bench whether eg it was the manner in which an informal warning was given about an offender`s future behaviour or an explanation in rather simple terms to somebody whose comprehension might have been slightly wanting. It would certainly have been beyond my personal remit to have followed the example of Deputy District Judge [MC] Bennett at Westminster Magistrates` Court (The Times behind its paywall) who declared from the bench a few years ago after having found guilty of careless driving a lorry driver whose offending caused very serious injury to a cyclist, that he would be writing to Mayor Boris Johnson to consider the layout of the accident location to improve safety for cyclists.

It would be interesting to know whether my reticence was common or not amongst colleagues. What legal advisors might have said in such circumstances would have been another matter indeed. In the light of court changes commented upon here recently it will become necessary IMHO for chairmen to be more forthright in handling certain court situations.  They must have confidence in their ability to determine which such situations require intervention and those when the advice would be to zip it! 


  1. Your reticence is common and rightly so. Judges regularly get into difficulties for off-the-cuff remarks and magistrates would do so too. Grandstanding is almost never a good idea.

    However, I'm at a loss as to what you are refering when you say "In the light of court changes commented upon here recently it will become necessary IMHO for chairmen to be more forthright..." Can you elaborate?

    1. For a start the Criminal Justice and Courts bill with the non means tested additional costs will put a strain on many JPs having to pronounce costs with which they profoundly disagree. It is not beyond possibility that some will make critical statements from the bench. The increasing numbers of unrepresented defendants will require the help and intervention of chairmen because the playing field is no longer level. L/As will themselves be proscribed from giving the assistance such people might require owing to thinking of their paymaster.