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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.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, 2 June 2015


Public and private finance or similar phrases are a common feature of our social and political discourse. Such phrases can indicate a social and political minefield the most commonly quoted being our national religion; the NHS. When large sums of money flow from recipient of business  to provider there will inevitably be the question of a quid pro pro.  The world`s  media booked their tickets to Zurich last week for just such a situation.  In this regard the financial goings on at the Magistrates Association however apparently laudable cannot be glossed over.  Yet it seems that glossing with a fine coat of the best obfuscacious  paint is just what appears to be the case.  That organisation has lost about a third of its members and consequently substantial income over the last decade.  It is an organisation which if it were founded tomorrow from scratch would not bear any resemblance to its current form. Historically it has been run by well meaning individuals with their own agenda often including the hope  of a gong for meritorious service to the community.  About eight years ago there appeared to be a willingness to allow some light to shine where before darkness reigned and an on line members only forum attached to its website  was established to allow on line discourse, debate and discussion limited only by respected colleagues who moderated where occasionally required. Earlier this year the M.A. in somebody`s wisdom revamped an already  navigationally impossible website, abolished the forum and made it virtually impossible to source many of the thousands of items  probably hidden away somewhere in its archives.  Considering the costs involved for web re-design such actions could not have been an accident.  And one factor where the shrouding of information might be of significance is that of the M.A.`s seeking additional income by inviting "affiliates" to buy into its activities. These currently comprise five Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC's). According to the April-May edition of its house magazine:- 

"The end of January management accounts show a year-to-date deficit of £21,100. This is largely due to expenditure on the new MA website, which has now been launched and is evident across this edition of the MAGISTRATE. Membership income and associated gift aid is marginally ahead of budget, but with the continuing decline in membership, due to the continuing fall in the number of magistrates, other income streams are being developed" {my italics}

In the same issue the chairman writes:-

"Some may be nervous about our engagement with political stakeholders, opinion-makers and the media. But it is important not to lose sight of the fact that when we do this, we do so as spokespeople for a nationally respected charity, not as individual holders of judicial office; the two roles are separate. It is, of course, a delicate operation and it is important that the MA is seen – at all times – to be exactly what it is: a non-partisan, independent national charity in the criminal justice field. Our slogan has been for some time ‘the independent voice of the magistracy’".

These monies received will apparently pay so we are told  for commissioned research.  In the same issue was  published the following:-

"CRCs are often conglomerations of different service providers with experience of addressing different criminogenic factors in the lives of offenders. The Senior Presiding Judge has issued guidance about liaison between providers of probation services and sentencers, emphasising that it is the NPS who have that responsibility". 

The current edition of the magazine contains the following statement on behalf of the M.A.:-
"so we can make comparisons at a later stage, and we would like to be able to present views to other interested parties with a greater understanding of how our members feel about developments. Responses would be very much appreciated." {my italics}

It begs the question as to why such a major and  controversial policy was not put to the membership before  its initiation. It might transpire that the tail of a CRC will wag the dog providing research.  Of equal or greater importance is the possibility not just of conflict of interest but contagion.  It is not unlikely that sooner or later some form of bad publicity will surround one of these CRCs. The M.A.`s reliance on a probation provider to keep its book balanced is not odour free.  It stinks.

When representative organisations, and of course the M.A. is a registered charity, cannot fund their expenditure from their own or members` resources they enter that minefield when they go cap in hand to those who might conceivably benefit from the closeness of their association and for whom they provide business. The first call should have been on members to seek a membership fee increase.  This latest "venture" reinforces the correctness of my and hundreds of other decisions to leave the M.A. in the last decade

1 comment:

  1. I have expressed similar concerns