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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Friday, 14 August 2015

A JUDICIAL WAKE UP CALL

Professional people must jump hurdles of varying heights in order to be entrusted with the tasks and duties they have voluntarily offered to perform for those who directly or indirectly pay for or receive their advice and/or services. Only in the most heinous circumstances do those individuals receive the ultimate sanction for departing morally or professionally from their chosen path. Mass murderer Harold Shipman was a known drug addict and was supposedly rehabilitated and allowed to continue to practise as a physician. When it comes to members of the judiciary misbehaving, a casual onlooker might opine that the higher up the ladder of seniority the alleged “justice” is standing the greater the saturation of redness must appear on his hand before action is taken. 

Magistrates [and others] in my opinion operate within what is arguably the most politically correct organisation in the country……Her Majesty`s Courts and Tribunals  Service and under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice. The well known and accurate description; “justice must not only be done it must be seen to be done” is not merely a snappy phrase; it gives meaning to a necessary pillar of a free society.

Within the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office it seems there is no such consideration as “three strikes and you`re out”. It is sometimes  more a matter of slip up once however minor and out you go. It is questionable whether that philosophy operates amongst other professional supervisory bodies.Then pity or castigate John Harrison  ex J.P. on the Lancaster Bench who in 2010 was thrown out for nodding off whilst chairing an assault trial. It seems that judges, however, can fall asleep during a trial, admit such and continue on the bench. Such was the situation with His Honour Judge Michael Coombe [now deceased] who fell asleep during a robbery trial in 2002. Although convictions against the defendants were held at appeal in 2004 three of them had their sentences reduced. Interesting reports are available here and here. And his is not the only example. In 2001, Judge Gabriel Hutton was disciplined for falling asleep during a rape trial. In 1999, Judge Victor Hall was 'severely reprimanded' after he was convicted of drink-driving. There is more to read at Mail on line 

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It seems that the propensity to conceal judicial incompetence at the higher levels like all such attempts at cover up from Watergate onwards will lead to more revelations. Sleeping judges are a not uncommon consequence of advancing age, stuffy courtrooms and listening to sometimes boring people talking boring nonsense.

A more recent "caught napping on the job" report was that involving  Recorder Philip Cattan. He was reprimanded in February and lives to judge another day.  Whether the same benevolence is allowed to magistrate Gary Kirkley of Bury & Rochdale Bench remains to be seen; his case has not been finally adjudicated.

So for any former colleagues especially those sitting in afternoon sessions……….an inability to have time for more than a cup of tea and a sandwich as opposed to a three courser and wine as our senior colleagues at Crown Court can avail themselves is no cause for despair. The motto is there is usually no second chance; keep awake or be fired!

1 comment:

  1. In management circles it is well known that the spot immediately after lunch is known as 'the sleepy hour' and no self respecting manager would want to present his case to colleagues or senior managers if he could help it. If you are given this time slot it is not unknown for a presenter to begin by letting off a fire cracker or similar just to make sure he / she gets the audiences' attention. Anyone sitting on the bench in court should make sure the windows are open and the room temperature is reduced to avoid embarrassment.

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