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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.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, 30 June 2015


Three and half years ago before my "old" bench amalgamated with two others we had approximately 260 members.  Early this year the number of J.P.s in the enlarged amalgamated bench was.........260!   During my last few years on the bench I was a high sitter; a situation that suited both the bench liaison officer and me.  On speaking to former colleagues since my retirement it appears that the number of two person benches is as bad as ever with recently appointed magistrates in many cases unable to offer more than the minimum sittings required.  In addition the baby boom retirees were and are  in the main experienced chairmen who from that experience were generally more capable of fulfilling the role than many newcomers to a system which now treats J.P.s as unpaid employees rather than government appointees; an insignificant matter of semantics some might comment but one which reaches into the heart of many who are disillusioned by the whole process of presiding over what is a "magistrates`"  court in name only.

I know of many former colleagues who were extremely upset at having been forced to step down on reaching the biblical three scores years and ten.  For some know alls to be pressing for J.P.s to retire after ten years service is a display of crass ignorance.  What specialised office rids itself of its most experienced practitioners after ten years?  It would only be a viable option for those who contemplate the time when J.P.s are no longer sitting in court but are farmed out to lesser positions "in the community". 

Thus it has come into my possession the authoritative answer from the Equality and Human Rights Commission to an inquiry that that compulsory retirement age might be unlawful.  The response is copied below.

25 June 2015                                                                                      

Dear Mr  #

Re:  complaint of age discrimination

Your request for assistance on behalf of #  in relation to his complaint of age discrimination was considered by a Commission Panel on 17 June 2015. I am sorry to inform you that the Commission will be unable to provide him with assistance in this matter.

Issues Raised
You complain that  #  has been automatically discharged as a magistrate as he has reached the age of 70 despite being of sound mind and not wanting to retire. You state that  #  wishes to work past the age of 70 and believes that he is being discriminated against because of his age in not being able to do so.

The Commission's criteria
As you may be aware, the Commission was established under the Equality Act 2006.  Its objective is to work to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, race, religion and belief, gender, gender reassignment and sexual orientation.  It also has a mandate to promote the understanding of the Human Rights Act 1998.

You will appreciate that the Commission receives many applications for assistance in cases but we cannot take action on every matter that is brought to our attention. Therefore, it is appropriate that the Commission has a clear set of criteria and objectives on which its decisions are based.  These are in line with the Commission’s internal strategic priorities which are set out in our Business Plan for 2015/2016, Strategic Plan 2012-2015, Compliance and Enforcement Policy and Strategic Litigation Policy which can be found on the Commission’s website at 

The Commission provides assistance in very few cases and only in respect of those which meet our criteria. Having carefully considered this matter, the Panel took the view that a magistrate is required to retire on reaching the age of 70 since this is required by Section 13 of the Courts Act 2003. Section 50 of the Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination in appointing a person to a public office as well as the terms and termination of an existing office. Section 191 and paragraph 1 of Schedule 22 of the Equality Act, however provide that it is not a contravention of section 50 to discriminate against a person because of age if this is required by enactment, (this enactment being Section 13 of the Courts Act 2003).

Therefore, whilst we appreciate you bringing this matter to our attention, we are sorry but the Commission cannot be of any assistance in this case.

We appreciate that this is not the response that you may have been hoping for but we hope you understand the constraints within which the Commission operates.

We will keep our file of papers (except for any of your papers which you ask to be returned to you) for six years and on the understanding that we have your authority to destroy the file after that period.

Yours sincerely,

Chief Legal Officer's Team
Telephone: 020 7832 7827

So there it is.  If you`re enjoying the job so be it.  If,  like many newbies I encountered in the last five years or so, you are hardly enthralled about the time you have to take off, much of it unpaid, from your employment and find the process in court not to your expectations pack it in now instead of trying to get by on minimum sittings which overburdens your colleagues. 

1 comment:

  1. "... which now treats J.P.s as unpaid employees rather than government appointees ..."
    I don't believe JPs have ever been government appointees - at least I hope not!