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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Friday, 29 January 2016


Along with most other legal commentators or observers this blog was highly critical of the previous government`s Justice Secretary, one Chris Grayling AKA currently as the Leader of the House.  I think it is fair to say that few legal big wigs made any great criticism of his activities whist he was in occupation of the least in public.  He brought nothing less than havoc to the criminal courts, the magistrates` courts in particular, by the imposition of the criminal courts charge last April.  He tore down the national probation service in an effort to substitute  payment by results from outsourcing companies who have predictably and contrary to their original assurances proceeded to reduce the workforce but at a cost in all probability  of reduced effectiveness in what is now a two tier probation system.  He presided over a walk out of barristers who demonstrated outside the very courts in which they were scheduled to appear and who thus prevented proposed cuts to their fees. Against all advice and common sense he introduced curbs on the books which prisoners could have in their cells.  He contracted to a joint venture on their prison system with Saudi Arabia.  All these proposals bar the changes to probation have been rescinded by Michael Gove.   Earlier this week he scrapped proposed changes to the legal aid contracting scheme for lawyers. 

Rarely if ever has there been such a disassociation and repudiation of one cabinet minister`s actions by his successor of the same party. It is beyond belief that he occupies a front bench position in the House of Commons.  It is little wonder that politics and politicians are held in contempt by the general public when such  failure is rewarded.


  1. We are left with the probation mess-up; there is every commercial incentive to minimise the amount of rehabilitative work done with offenders; sentencers have almost no say over what happens in a community penalty; breaching appears to have reduced significantly and it is difficult if not impossible to get any real information in court because of the wall between court National Probation Service and the commercial Community Rehabilitation Companies who do the work.

    A strong HMCTS/MoJ will be required to sort this out. Grayling ensured companies like Sodexo and Interserve had 10 year contracts to prevent a future government backing out; we don't know the terms of those contracts as FoI doesn't, I believe, apply, however, there will be constraint and targets and qualifications to ensure that even an incompetent HMCTS has some leverage; they should use that leverage to the full to make the CRC owners back out, as other government outsourcers have done when they can't make their profit.

    I'm not syaing go back to the status quo - simply something with a degree of rationality in it and the possibility of doing what probation sets out to do.

  2. I think many of us were pleased with Michael Gove's appointment as Lord Chancellor knowing that he most likely had the best interests of the CJS at heart. In my view he has not disappointed and in 3 or 4 months has sensibly reversed most of the catastrophic issues that Mr Grayling had introduced. And he has been able to do it whilst still adhering to the settlement that the treasury had made for HMCTS. The final one must be the probation service where he has an opportunity to return it to the type of service we once knew and where the practitioners could again take pride in what they do.

  3. He couldn't have occupied the woolsack because that privilege is reserved for the Speaker of the House of Lords.