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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Thursday, 21 May 2015

IT IS STILL A MAGISTRATES` COURT



When I was appointed to the bench the use of screens to prevent a witness being seen by a defendant was not at all common the reason being that since ancient times a defendant has had the right to face his/her accuser. The recent history of such special measures can be found here.  Subsequently their use became more frequent.  Indeed when the case is listed as being in a domestic context the application is part of the protocol on behalf of the complainant and sometimes other witnesses.   It takes a strong bench to refuse such an application and reasons must be given.  It has been my personal experience that perhaps in the last two or three years screens are being applied for even in non domestic cases when the defendant and complainant are not known to each other.  With my colleagues` agreement I have often rejected such applications.  Such was the case at Dolgellau Magistrates Court.  In line with opinions previously expressed here I am much in favour of lay justices taking more control of courtroom procedures even when risking criticism from the legal advisor providing of course that a proposed course of action or inaction can be argued as justified by the circumstances even contrary to the opinion of said advisor. After all it is still a magistrates` court..........at least for now.

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