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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Saturday, 15 August 2015


Being in a position to deprive a fellow citizen of his/her liberty is an onerous task and a supposedly rigorous vetting system is in place to ensure as far as possible that those appointed are suited for the task. And that task is fast tracking to become a most capable practitioner in a wholly new intellectual activity. To ensure total compliance when in office any word out of turn in or out of court is liable to lead to chastisement.  So it is plainly obvious that Justices of the Peace can be said to have an IQ of at least 100 and a modicum of common sense.  Going by the guidance issued by the Magistrates Association it appears that my former colleagues need assistance in deciding the qualities required when voting every three years for their bench chairman.  I would use the word "patronising" as a description.  Perhaps the MA is truly reverting to form and aping the attitudes of organisations with not a lot to say and a press office to run by scraping the bottom of its intellectually deprived barrel with this unnecessary nonsense copied below.  Perhaps next it will advise magistrates of the long forgotten green cross code to assist when they are crossing a busy street or teaching grandma how to suck eggs..

"Electing the bench chairman is a very important decision
for every magistrate. With elections taking place in the
Autumn months we have put together some key pointers
on the qualities that bench chairmen should ideally have
to help you to decide who will get your vote.
Clearly, elections should not simply be on the basis of seniority within the bench — magistrates must look for the best person to fulfil the role. However, a bench chairman must have sufficient experience of the magistracy to deal with the whole breadth of a chairman’s work.Previous involvement with aspects of court life apart from just
court sittings is important. This does not mean all bench chairmen have first to serve as deputies, but chairing another bench committee or sitting on the management team in a different capacity would help.
Management and leadership skills
The bench chairman is a key part of the judicial leadership and management team which helps ensure the judicial business of court runs effectively. This involves working closely with the justices’ clerk, liaising with the advisory committee or training and development committee (TDC) and attending the justices’ issues group (JIG) and area judicial forum (AJF) meetings. S/he will also need to cooperate outside the bench with other bench chairmen
or various other meetings such as court user groups. To work at this level, the chairman must be authoritative and tactful and needs to be able to look at issues strategically.
Community involvement
Bench chairmen are the public face of the bench and should help to promote links with the local community, working together with the bench Magistrates in the Community (MIC) coordinator. They should be prepared to attend events and support magistrates who work in the community eg being present at the local heats of the national Mock Trial Competition. They may also speak for the bench in the media.
Pastoral care
The chairman has a pastoral responsibility for all magistrates on the bench. Together with the justices' clerk s/he should be the first person that a magistrate contacts with any concerns.
The chairman needs to be approachable, readily available and able to keep confidentiality. S/he will need to be an empathetic source of guidance to magistrates who may be experiencing difficulties either on the bench, or in their personal lives.
Grievances and complaints
The bench chairman has a specific role as a first port of call in the disciplinary process, together with dealing with grievances, ie concerns best resolved outside the formal disciplinary process. A prospective chairman should have the right mix of tact, delicacy and robustness to handle grievances effectively. S/he must act with impartiality and be seen to be impartial.
Conduct cases and appeals
While s/he is not a formal part of the disciplinary process, the bench chairman has a specific role in conduct cases and appraisal appeals. A judicious, dispassionate approach to these matters is necessary.
Communications skills
The bench chairman's role is very wide and involves working closely with those both in and outside the court and liaising with other groups such as the local Magistrates’ Association. Being an effective communicator can be a key to his or her success. S/he will need to be able to develop good working relationships with others, be robust, empathetic, tactful and relate easily to those within and outside the justice system. The bench chairman will need to be a confident user of e-mail and the internet.
As a representative of the bench, the chairman needs to ensure he or she is aware of members’ views and properly represents them. The ability to consult with the bench on key issues is essential for anyone in this role.
Commitment and teamwork
Being a chairman need not be all consuming. Of course a
candidate will need to be able to devote the time, energy and
commitment necessary for the role. But at the same time, s/he needs to know how to delegate appropriately (eg to the deputy) and work effectively in a team. The ideal bench chairman shares responsibility and is keen to develop a good team and nurture the leadership skills of other magistrates."

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