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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Thursday, 21 January 2016


I am one of the fortunate people who can experience a Christmas New Year period as a time for reflection and relaxation. Having some years ago had quite extensive training in traditional hatha yoga and latterly in transcendental meditation not only can I attempt to control psychological and physiological processes it does not take much effort to allow a certain amount of introspection to enter my consciousness.

Sometime after Christmas after talking with an ex colleague  I was thinking of the significance of a bench split in its decision and its consequences at the close of a trial for sentencing. I would hazard a guess that over the years no more than 10% of the trials on which I  sat led to such a division in the retiring room. That minority was probably equally split between both majority guilty and not guilty. Of course nowhere is it recorded whether the verdict is or is not unanimous. The bench makes a collective decision and that is how it is likely to  remain and that is why we are a bench of three and IMHO a fairer method of judicial fact finding than a single individual however well qualified. However while I was active when it came to the same bench sentencing I noticed that there was and presumably is no set pattern and certainly no guidance from anybody. Some former colleagues who were in the “acquit” minority quite logically, when opining on sentence using the correct structured approach, made clear that their situation led them to a minimum tariff whilst others declined to be involved. There is a third group which in acceptance of the bench decision of guilt undertook the exercise without prejudice and partook in the usual manner.

That period of introspection has led me to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong approach morally, judicially or legally with any of the three situations as outlined above. Others might disagree.

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