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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Monday, 25 April 2016


I have read with interest the recently published report by Transform Justice " Unrepresented defendants in the courts : a travesty of justice?"  It certainly is of some interest even although it omits a thorough analysis of the whole undertaking.  In effect it offers a "hearsay" approach which some might say is better than nothing.  Questions asked are certainly of importance for anyone who has concerns that some aspects of the system are failing the true test; to convict the guilty and acquit the innocent which translates or should translate  as " It is far better that 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man is wrongfully convicted". 

The suggestions put forward require changes in basic procedures, the collation of data and some little government expenditure.  Last year I interviewed several of my former colleagues on this self same topic........MAGISTRATES` THOUGHTS ON UNREPRESENTED DEFENDANTS . The questions posed were by and large similar to those of the Transform Justice report.  The answers from the magistrates were carefully considered and perhaps more appropriate conclusions were forthcoming insofar as the required additional cost was insignificant but the improvements for defendants tangible. 

The provision of written material to be sent with the court summons  would, they agreed, be of enormous assistance to those people contemplating self representation.  All the aspects described in the report where knowledge might be lacking could be incorporated in the mailing.  Such documentation could of course be made available on line for minimal cost.  It seems that Transform Justice`s interviewees were unable to think outside the box.

The other innovation my interviewees considered with some favour was more controversial; namely an increased inquisitorial role for magistrates in order to level that ever diminishing equality of arms.  There is no doubt that there is a tendency for government to see an increasing conviction rate as a proud boast of its successful law and order policies.  For that to come at the price of losing our sense of what foreigners used to call "the British sense of fair play" would be a loss for us all. 

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