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, 27 July 2015

SEARCH WARRANTS AND OTHERS SIMILAR

I was unsurprised to note the implications of this case at the Divisional Court. Their lordships take a fairly uncompromising view of the magistrates involved and by extension magistrates in general.  There is a reference to the bench taking only 45 minutes to decide on the application. Perhaps their lordships are not familiar with the daily throughput at magistrates` courtsWarrants are considered by legal advisors as an unfortunate intrusion into the time available to get through the anticipated list which is itself often over subscribed.  It is not uncommon that their desire is to get the job done as quickly as possible without omitting to cross the "T"s when required and of course dotting the "I"s. Indeed it appears that the need to get over the rubber stamping tendency  is still there.  With warrants of entry by utility companies in this era of reducing benefits to the lower paid and unemployed  it is nothing short of misconduct if there are still magistrates out there who do not subject such applications to the utmost scrutiny.   Once more this lends urgency for my former colleagues to be more inquisitorial whilst in the middle chair whatever the topic in consideration and however unexpected  or objected to  by the legal advisor. After all it is still but for how much  longer a magistrates` court.

2 comments:

  1. An interesting article. Certainly there is some criticism of the bench that issued the warrants but by far the greatest criticism, even approbation, is directed at the NCA. They deliberately withheld vital information even from some of their own officers. It's difficult to see how a magistrate(s) could have been expected to have known of the intention to place covert listening devices when this information is not contained within the application. Even if the question was asked (and why would it be?) then the officer presenting the warrant would presumably have had no knowledge of that intention. Furthermore a 45 minute consideration period seems to me to be quite reasonable. In my experience most applications take around 15 or 20 minutes.

    We don't have the benefit of the full report so perhaps there are other matters pertaining to the issue that are squarely down to a lackadaisical approach by the justices. Even so, it is the NCA who must bear the greatest criticism since they clearly intended to deceive. Frankly, I am amazed that someone isn't facing prosecution.

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  2. I agree with everything that Anon 28 July says. We normally deal with search warrant applications between 09.30 - the time by which Justices are expected to have arrived - and 10.00, when courts start. We also have a briefing from our LA on the day's list during that time, so time is not only tight but precious. The only thing I can see that their Lordships might have been concerned about when they said the warrants were considered for "only 45 minutes" is that there were eight warrants, albeit associated.

    Courts have from time to time considered having a warrants-only court on a specific day, but that presumes the police will have warrants to apply for, and also ties up a Legal Advisor for the morning, and we don't have enough for regular criminal courts. Also, the Appeal talked of magistrates plural hearing the Chatwani warrants - that of course was then, now just one Justice hears applications.

    The full result can be seen at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2015/1283.html

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