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, 9 May 2016

ISLINGTON COUNCIL BLAMES MAGISTRATES FOR CRIME

The relevance of the lay magistracy in the 21st century has been questioned by many legally and not so legally orientated personel and organisations for many years. Indeed towards the end of the last century as a fairly new Justice of the Peace I replied to an article in The Times by a Robert McFarland who had been quoted by a House of Commons Standing Committee discussing "Draft Maximum Number of Stipendiary Magistrates Order 1999" during which and I quote, "The Chairman: Order. We should stick strictly to the subject of the increase of stipendiary magistrates from 50 to 56." 
How times change! But I digress. Amongst other exchanges within the committee on that day was,

" An interesting article appeared in The Times on 9 November 1999, entitled ``Time to lay off lay magistrates''. The article was written by Robert McFarland, who was a member of the Glidewell inquiry into the Crown Prosecution Service. The article presumed, directly and by implication, that the lay magistracy was not democratic or representative, and that it was expensive and ineffective.  
  
My reply to that original article is copied below:- (apologies for magnification but easily read with "magnifier")

All this demonstrates that the lay magistracy has long been considered by many of the supposedly great and good to be an irrelevance to a modern functioning of summary justice. 

An example of such thinking is that of Islington Borough Council in London or rather those responsible for its recently published Scrutiny Committee Report.  Unsuprisingly there was considerable reaction to the Report in local media. And what features in the headline?.......crititicism of the local bench of lay magistrates. When it`s convenient the media often forgets that perhaps 20%-30% of all cases have a District Judge presiding.  Nevertheless on p4 of the Report it can be noted that not a single individual from the local judicial area was invited to give evidence.......not a justices` clerk or his/her deputy, not a bench chairman, not a District Judge.  But take a look again at the headline in the local paper....

"Fears young thieves and drug dealers are getting an easy ride from Islington magistrates"

This form of insideous undermining of magistrates is so common as to be ignored by most.  But like the Chinese water torture so called it can have a destablising and disturbing effect on local justices of the peace.  Of course only Islington Council can know why there was no request for a magistrate or court official to offer evidence or opinion or maybe attendance was rejected by those asked.  Perhaps appropriate people can re-think or if there were no such request make their opinions known to Islington.   
 

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