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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.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, 31 March 2016
Wednesday, 30 March 2016
Tuesday, 29 March 2016
I fear that problems of religion are going to be an ever increasing disturbance to our secular way of life. For somebody whose teenage years were in the swinging sixties this is very depressing. The shackles thought destroyed in that decade seem to be re-appearing from the very sources it was considered had been consigned to the periphery except now we are too feeble to recognise them for what they are.
Monday, 28 March 2016
Friday, 25 March 2016
Wednesday, 23 March 2016
Tuesday, 22 March 2016
In the current pre referendum climate arguments are being deployed by Brexiteers that the European Court of Justice holds too much power by its unelected judges in its influence over British policies. The Foreign Secretary is a Remainer but that hasn`t prevented him from public criticism of the aforementioned high court decision. All too often of late we have witnessed this and the previous government seeking to appeal legal decisions which have confounded their policies. Perhaps he should seek advice from the presidents of Russia or Turkey. This case, however, is much more serious. It is public knowledge that Blair intervened personally to prevent investigation into arms sales and kick backs revolving around the sale of £ billions of Eurofighters. In the present confusing state of alliances in Syria, Saudi involvement in the promotion of Muslim extremism and the precarious market for oil for Hammond to act as he has done is not merely typical of Foreign Office attitudes it must be verging on the unconstitutional........but then I am not a lawyer.
Minds much more politically tuned than mine have opined that with a defunct Labour party the reining in of the current lot will fall to its own supporters inside and outside parliament. I await the sound of their voices or will it be the silence of the Tory lambs.
Monday, 21 March 2016
Having visited remand courts in a few overseas English speaking jurisdictions I have always been impressed by the unfailing police presence in court This is undoubtedly a deterrence to violence and a support for respect for legal procedures. Suffice to say the situation inside Bolton Magistrates` Court last week was less rigorous. Not only were no police inside a courtroom........they rarely are........but no officers were in the building when somebody urinated in public. They had to be called! It would appear from the very brief report that outsourced security personnel from Group 4 or Serco or some other company feeding off the public purse as vultures devouring carion were unavailable also. There surely must come a time when natural Tories in and out of Parliament plead with government to halt this continue salami slicing of our public services.
Restraining Orders are made when there is evidence that one individual must have protection from another and the failure of which to be observed can be sanctioned by custody. One would have thought that five breaches of such an order would warrant an immediate custodial sentence but one would have been mistaken. What mitigation was offered in the courtroom we`ll never know but this man joins the thousands whom the emasculated probation service will attempt to re-habilitate. It is not unlikely that the result will be similar to that in Llandudno where an offender was still awaiting a place on a rehabilitation course one year after sentencing. Of course, apologists for Chris Grayling will say, outsourcing of probation during his tenure at Justice has nothing to do with the shambles that is today`s probation services.
Occasionally there are some professionals with the cajones to tell the public the reality of the system. One such is solicitor Chris Pye-Smith who has openly accused the government of manipulating statistics to justify the closure of Grantham Magistrates’ Court. As I have discovered when FOI requests on legal matters are answered with the response that such statistics are not available government collects numbers when it suits its purpose and obfuscates when it doesn`t.
And finally a serving Justice of the Peace who has taken his magisterial life in his hands to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to Guardian readers about the situation in dedicated domestic violence courts as he sees it. Probably better for him if he refuses any invitations to be interviewed on T.V.
Friday, 18 March 2016
All these points to a greater or lesser degree seem to encompass the case of sacked J.P. Richard Page; a practising Christian. In 2014 he was suspended from the bench for remarks he made subsequent to a case in the family court. Apparently his opinion that he could not support the adoption of a child by a same sex couple became known to the Advisory Committee which oversees disciplinary matters. His point of view that such an arrangement would not be in the best interests of the child was considered contrary to his oath of office; “I, _________ , do swear by Almighty God that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second in the office of ________ , and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.” There is also provision for an affirmation for those who prefer to leave out reference to a supreme being. The official notice of his suspension is available here. Presumably Mr Page satisfied the powers that be that after further training he was competent to resume his place on the bench. That is until earlier this week when he was sacked by the THE JUDICIAL CONDUCT INVESTIGATIONS OFFICE. The wording of the report is ambivalent. "Mr Page’s comments on national television would have caused a reasonable person to conclude he was biased and prejudiced against single sex adopters." Was the underlying position of opposition to same sex adoption the prime cause of his dismissal or its being broadcast on ITV?
This case raises matters of importance as to what we are as a society. Unlike the French almost every form with a sociological basis however flimsy that we are asked or told to complete has a question on ethnic origin but belief system or religion unless of direct relevance is not demanded. The matter of the Belfast bakers and the symbolism on a cake has raised fundamental questions which are still unanswered owing to the adjournment of an appeal. The Roman Catholic population of this country has been invigorated by the immigration of close to one million Poles the majority of whom practise their religion with greater devotion than their British neighbours. Three million Muslim citizens are settled here and a large number, variable according to source, subscribes to opinions on society that would be incompatible to their non Muslim fellow citizens. It is not unreasonable IMHO to consider that of the 956 (4.42%) of magistrates listed as "Asian" as at 31st March 2014 hundreds are Muslim and that extreme if not extremist opinions could be considered as being part of their philosophy of life. I have yet to read of a non Christian removed from the magistracy on the basis that his/her religious belief was incompatible with the judicial function although there has been apparent discrimination against Christians within the medical world where perceived criticism of Muslims has been suspected. The already heady mix of English law and Sharia has been thrown into further confusion by the appointment in Bristol of crown court judge Shamim Qureshi to sit on Sharia cases.
There are so many overlapping, complementary and contradictory aspects to the apparently simple case of Richard Page that it is my belief that we ain`t heard the half of it yet.
Thursday, 10 March 2016
Wednesday, 9 March 2016
Tuesday, 8 March 2016
Last Thursday March 3rd I posted inter alia that the IPCC was not fit for purpose. It seems that the Home Secretary kept it from me that she too had misgivings about the so called police watchdog. The seriousness of a government department`s intention to clean out the stables can always be gauged by the so called advice to it from the expensively hired consultants and advisors hired to cover its arse. This current regime has more such weasels than any previous. In February 2013 the Home Office employed in one form or another 27,546 people. It is difficult to obtain current numbers of "consultants/advisors" employed on short term contracts. Figures published in the Telegraph in 2009 showed that in the previous four years under the Labour government £500 million was paid to such people. But back to the current situation and yesterday`s announcement by the Home Secretary of a shake up at the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Indeed this organisation and its rebranding in 2004 from what was then called the Police Complaints Authority can be seen as typical of the way quangos in this country fail, are renamed and rebranded and fail again with the whole process repeated every decade or so whether the organisations are involved in health, security, education, teaching, social care...........in fact in all walks of supposed public service.
There is without doubt a deficit within the governance of this country which goes beyond party political differences. It is as much a part of the myth that is Britain as is the stiff upper lip of its inhabitants. Corruption at high levels whilst arguably and visibly on the rise might be below that of a banana republic but the covering up of government failure after failure by waving a magician`s cloak of political deception over it to reveal, when it is flamboyantly removed, an all new bright and shiny fully functioning renamed quango is the British way of doing things just like the gentlemanly way we supposedly play our cricket except that others do it better and more honestly.
Monday, 7 March 2016
Subsection 2 applies to:
• any person who works at the premises in a capacity, whether paid or unpaid, which gives him the authority to sell the alcohol concerned;
• the holder of a premises licence in respect of the premises;
• the designated premises supervisor (if any) under such a licence;
• any member or officer of the club which holds a certificate who at the time the sale (or attempted sale) takes place is present on the premises in a capacity which enables him to prevent it; and
• the premises user in relation to the temporary event notice in question.
This section applies in relation to the supply of alcohol by or on behalf of a club to or to the order of a member of the club as it applies in relation to the sale of alcohol. A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
Friday, 4 March 2016
Someone who isn`t, is an ex J.P. Penelope Gibbs who runs a most thought provoking organisation; Transform Justice. Unlike me she is a professional student of matters such as those mentioned above. Her January report The Role of the Magistrate is certainly worth a read. Personally I do not agree with some of her recommendations or conclusions but she does present arguments which require analysis.
Thursday, 3 March 2016
The quote above from the Metropolitan Police is in response to a report from the Independent Police Complaints Commission regarding police conduct during the investigation into the inquiry in 1998 into the murder of Stephen Lawrence five years previously.
It is IMHO deeply disturbing when presumably with authority from the highest level the country`s largest police force controlled directly by the government, insofar as the Home Secretary is overseer, directly rubbishes an independent report compiled by what is supposed to be the public`s safeguard against unlawful or mis-conduct by increasingly voracious police activity. Something is far wrong. Either the Met is out of control or the IPCC is yet another quango unfit for purpose. But this is not a zero sum game. Perhaps both organisations need to be taken to the cleaners.
Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Tuesday, 1 March 2016
The full report and/or summary can be accessed here.