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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Thursday, 10 September 2015


I make no apology for revisiting the topic of the Criminal Courts Charge.  The Justices` Clerk  for the West and North & East London Clerkships Julien Vantyghem wrote to all magistrates in his jurisdiction in April shortly before the introduction of said Charge but before its effects and consequences were apparent to a wider audience.  In his letter he wrote,  

"This is a fixed charge that the court is required to impose as part of a sentence regardless of the individual offenders’ means. This applies to offences committed on or after the 13th April 2015. The Charge is described as a ‘contribution to the cost of the running of the courts’. I attached guidance on the Charge that has been prepared by Andrew Nicholson, Deputy Justices’ Clerk for South West London. This is provided in PDF format to provide compatibility with most electronic devices. There have been various comments in the media about the introduction of this charge. I shouId remind you that magistrates are required to refrain from commenting on matters of political controversy at any time but especially at such a sensitive time as this. [ My highlight and black] No pronouncement has been issued and pending any update to the guideline pronouncements by the Judicial College I recommend that you simply state: “You are also required to pay a Courts Charge of £ (Insert Sum). This is a fixed charge that the court is obliged to impose on everyone regardless of how much money you have.”

Ok! so far so good.  Now consider this: last week, a Truro crown court judge, Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC, was reported to have told a defendant: “The charge has no bearing on your ability to pay. It is totally inappropriate for people of no means to have to pay this charge. It happens to be government policy but as an independent judge I regard it as extremely unfair and, although I have to impose it, I do so with immense reluctance.”  

Were His Honour`s remarks by making clear his personal opinion politically controversial?  If not then surely a J.P. could if s/he wished say something similar without fear of retribution.  But if the powers that be consider such remarks to indeed  be political in nature and controversial to boot then can we expect an inquiry by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office? 

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