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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Wednesday, 9 March 2016


Within Magistrates` Courts buildings sit benches of Justices of the Peace [magistrates] and District Judges, formally known as Stipendiary Magistrates, whose powers are no more and no less than their JP colleagues`. In my experience there is a great deal of mutual respect between the DJs and these colleagues.

When it comes to the attitudes of members of the bar to DJs and JPs it appears to me that far too often barristers appear to tolerate appearing before a lay bench. There is something about a condescending tone from a nasally inclined barrister which I found personally demeaning to all present. Examples that come to mind are the occasion when counsel for various reasons applied for a week`s adjournment. After discussion with my colleagues I announced that the matter would be adjourned until the following day to which the response was, "Sir, did you hear my application?" I replied, "Yes" and proceeded with the court`s business. On mentioning this to some legal colleagues including a DJ they agreed with me that the reply was indeed impertinent and intended to belittle the bench. Even worse was the reply of a barrister who had her request for the adjournment of a trial refused,"Sir, is your decision based upon court statistics?" She was told in the least offensive manner possible to sit down and ponder her words. That latter occasion I was reliably informed would have had a District Judge holding the individual in contempt with the aside that a barrister would never have said that when appearing in front of a DJ.

Generally, however, I suppose barristers must impress upon their privately  paying clients that they are being seen to do their best and if that means some risky language against JPs so be it. But I resolved that if and when a sharp suited tongue asked again if justice were tempered by the desire to alter or conform to statistics s/he would be told to remove her/himself. As far as I can remember it was a one off event.

1 comment:

  1. In my experience lay benches are unfailingly polite to those appearing before them, solicitors, barristers or the unrepresented.

    That is not something that can be said of all DJs.