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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.
Saturday, 30 July 2016
Friday, 29 July 2016
Wednesday, 27 July 2016
A 16 year old pupil living within the compass of Notts Police was wrongly accused of bullying, dragged from her classroom and imprisoned in cells at Mansfield police station and refused contact with her parents who travelled to that venue to see their daughter. I won`t re-state the events as the episode is reported here in sufficient detail for any dispassionate observer to conclude that the behaviour of said police force was nothing short of disgraceful and a flagrant abuse of power.
This courageous girl has waived her right to anonymity so that her case can be be discussed in the public domain. The question is how many other cases of arrogant and possible unlawful police behaviour in Nottingham and elsewhere remain secret?
Tuesday, 26 July 2016
Custodial sentences are of course the result of sentencing policies signed into law by parliament. When magistrates` courts were empowered to impose custody suspended that disposal became increasingly common. In 2005 about 6,000 offenders were subjected to suspended custody orders in the courts of England and Wales. By 2015 that number had risen to over 49,000. No figures are available for disposals subsequent to breaches of such orders. Thus sentencers at magistrates` courts in some matters have a choice whether or not to fine offenders, impose community service orders, to impose immediate custody or custody suspended (SSO) or a combination. In the case of this man the disposal was a SSO. There is no mention in the report of any previous convictions but it is inferred his driving record was clear. The fact that immediate custody was not the disposal indicates that the bench did not consider that that final resort was in his interests or that of society. However, let us assume indeed that the offence was a one off. The almost maximum hours of community service imposed will in actual fact be unlikely to provide any useful benefit to his community and the hours finally employed will be much fewer than the 280 imposed owing to various bureaucratic obstacles. Apart from his disqualification from driving his liberty and freedom of movement have been unaffected. Some might consider that is appropriate. I do not. There should be a provision for part time and/or weekend loss of liberty commensurate with the offence. Of course that would entail the availability of accommodation suitable for purpose. It surely is time that the outdated attitudes to sentencing at present can be replaced by innovative projects without succumbing to Howard League and its "no prison sentences under 12 months" policy. I suppose lateral thinking or its modern term, "thinking out of the box" would be required. I await the new Lord Chancellor`s initiation into the job and hope that she`s not relying on the hyperbole of her press office to see her over the line.
Monday, 25 July 2016
For many years I have considered that magistrates who are part time unpaid junior members of the judiciary are required to jump tougher behavioural hurdles than judicial civil service employees. These latest statements reinforce that opinion.
Friday, 22 July 2016
3.49 inspectors/chief inspector
2.2 chief inspectors/superintendent
2.24 superintendents/chief superintendent
1.82 chief superintendents/ACPO rank
I have no knowledge of the internal workings or management of large organisations but it does seem that the police are top heavy at the higher ranks of chief inspector and above.
Current figures are for 2015:-
3.44 inspectors/chief inspector
2.02 chief inspectors/superintendent
2.43 superintendents/chief superintendent
1.68 chief superintendents/ACPO rank
Are there too many chiefs and too few indians? The numbers above indicate a constable:ACPO rank of 493.78. Perhaps somebody more knowledgeable than I can comment on the significance of these numbers?
Thursday, 21 July 2016
The lay bench is supposed to be representative of the society from which it has been appointed. I doubt many in Manchester would agree. Once again it seems that George Orwell had it right all these years ago.
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
Boston Magistrates` Court on Monday was a shameful example of how we treat alcoholics whose public behaviour is intolerable. But disposals similar are handed out in their hundreds week in and week out all over the country. Sooner or later a government must grasp the nettle and find a way of making compulsory confinement and treatment available for those for whom the only future prospect is an early pauper`s death followed by a pauper`s funeral in a borough cemetery funded by perhaps the same council that authorised the use of PUBLIC SPACE PROTECTION ORDERS. I have it; let`s have CCTOs: COMPULSORY CONFINEMENT AND TREATMENT ORDERS or would it be quicker to wait for Godot?
Tuesday, 19 July 2016
On June 10th I posted inter alia about the behaviour of Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine de Brunner. A fuller report on that incident is available here. It seems that actions whilst perhaps not actually corrupt but perhaps reprehensible and worthy of being defined as gross misconduct are endemic in this highly placed police officer`s modus operandi. In 2014 she mobilised uniformed police officers to "perform" at her son`s private school: this, at a time when the Met, as with all other police forces was and is facing drastic budget cuts. This person in whom we, the public, expect 100% propriety having got away with such devious self satisfying actions once attempted in her arrogance to repeat her performance last month for a similar event at the school where she is now chairman of governors. That deployment of officers has now been cancelled by the Met and she is facing a misconduct investigation.
In another example of highly suspicious police activity the house of a senior police officer in Manchester was bought by his own force in 2014 in order to allow its owner who was involved in the investigation of Dale Cregan who had killed two police officers and a father and son in 2012 to move out fearing retribution from Cregan or his associates. The property was then sold at a loss to a family who were not informed of its history. It is beyond belief that Greater Manchester Police put their own situation above that of the new purchasers without consideration of the fact that threats to the house`s occupants would still be likely from anybody approaching the house to do harm to those inside. Perhaps that threat was indeed weighed in the balance and dismissed.
These two revelations are public knowledge owing to investigations by a free press. Leveson would put handcuffs on such events. An article in the Spectator in 2015 is revealing.
This is a sad state of affairs and does great discredit to our new prime minister and her predecessors. There will be hell to pay if the public`s tolerance of corruption in any form including gross misconduct of the most senior police officers in this country is allowed to continue unchecked by new procedures. If there were less emphasis by their highly paid press people on how lucky we are to have them and how good they are at "keeping us safe" and more attention to cleaning out the undesirables of all ranks society, ie you and I, would be better off.
Friday, 15 July 2016
From time to time I have opined that those addicted to drugs and/or alcohol who habitually are the cause of social disharmony or worse have entered that interface where they should be considered as requiring medical treatment and thus avoiding the courts` system. Compulsorily confining such individuals would be politically very difficult to say the least but sooner or later it will be recognised as the lessor of two evils. Almost every other day in every other magistrates` court an example will present itself of an individual where there is simply no sensible solution to this problem of totally unacceptable behaviour where members of the public are in real or perceived danger. Such a person totally out of control appeared recently before magistrates in Cornwall and was, inter alia, made subject to a criminal behaviour order (CBO) specifying that, "he must not use swear words, make threats, use physical gestures, use visual representation, cause nuisance or obstruction that would cause any person offence, intimidation or distress directly or indirectly within the UK."
Is it really possible for a magistrates` bench to make such a crass order where the offender is set up for failure? Obviously the answer is in the affirmative. I can apprerciate that the bench was severely restricted in its options but all it will do is postpone the date of his next sojourn at Her Majesty`s pleasure at the taxpayers` expense. There must come a time, although with current political hurdles it is unlikely before 2020, when some bright new spark at Petty France in consultation with the royal colleges of medicine and senior judiciary explore realistic alternatives to prison for the likes of the offender discussed above whose sorry tale was reported in yesterday`s Metro.
Thursday, 14 July 2016
Take the word "hate". It is an old English word related to proto Germanic Dutch and Swedish words from the same origin. It can therefore be assumed to have in its use a universal meaning. The word "crime" as used in its ancient form by the Greeks described an offence against the community as opposed to a personal or moral wrong. The term "hate crime" was unknown prior to the mid 1980s when it appeared in the USA. It is generally now described as a prejudice-motivated crime, often violent, which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership (or perceived membership) in a certain social group. Examples of such groups can include but are not limited to: sex, ethnicity, disability, language, nationality, physical appearance, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation. Those groups now under the hate crime umbrella did not suddenly appear on the statute book one day as requiring protection or special consideration. Changes in society`s attitudes have driven the definition. Some people are beginning to ask what are the limits of the definition of hate crime. Those of a certain generation will recollect when it was not uncommon to use or hear grossly offensive terminology against people from Ireland, against black people, against Jewish people, against Catholics or Protestants in Northern Ireland Liverpool and the West of Scotland. When such abuse was directed against physical appearance; eg the disabled or transgender people public pressure increased the scope of the definition. What had previously been offensive had become criminal or criminally offensive. Nowhere has there been more debate on this definition than when the deemed offensiveness and occasionally violence was of a sexual nature. It became an aggravating factor in sentencing.
Nottinghamshire police have announced that they are to actively investigate "misogynistic crime". What has been taken by many to be friendly banter without a hint of malice implied or received could now be recorded as a hate crime. With regard to an alleged incident a police spokesperson is reported in the Mirror as having said, "If the victim feels that this has happened because they are a woman then we will record it as a hate crime. "This doesn’t necessarily mean that a criminal offence has been committed, but means we will carry out risk assessments and offer support as we would to any victim of a hate crime. " (my highlight).
By extending the words "hate crime" to include certain activities in this way IMHO this constabulary is actually reducing the power of the term. An admission that they will be in pursuit of alleged offenders of whom they will be aware some or many will be innocent of any alleged wrong doing whilst they are using very scarce resources strikes me as their having lost sight of priorities. During this current year they are striving to ensure services to their public despite a budget cut of £12 million.
Surely there has to be a proper trade off in expenditure and result when using tax funded police budgets as in any other scenario. There is a saying in Scotland which perhaps sums it up: She (i.e. Notts police) is wearing a fur coat and nae knickers.
Monday, 11 July 2016
The issue of custody suspended has been a bone of contention since such powers were expanded dramatically in the magistrates` court. In 2014 there were over 30,000 disposals of custody suspended; more than ten times the numbers of a decade earlier. What is not in the public domain is the number of breaches of suspended sentences. According to the MOJ it indeed holds this information but its retrieval would exceed the financial limits imposed by the Freedom of Information Act. There is a similar inability to produce the outcomes of these breaches. Today the Telegraph has published details resulting from a parliamentary question by a member of the Justice Committee. The public has no access to the Police National Computer. Of course the Telegraph (and others) make play with the numbers which do not truly reflect the Minister`s answer. Personally, as far as I can recall, with few exceptions I generally sought activation after two breaches although my colleagues did not always concur and sometimes the probation service were also reluctant to argue that position.
It is headlines which are taken as information by most of the population not parliamentary answers. If the MOJ wished to have the common man (or woman) on its side it would gladly collate the figures refused in an FOI request as above and consider the expense a small price to pay to ensure that the public had faith that the justice system was doing its best to ensure that repeat offending had consequences and that society could be certain that government spokesmen repeating the mantra of public protection were not just paying lip service to a political slogan. The current policy simply doesn`t seem to make sense. But then "sense" does not seem a priority for many in Whitehall.
Friday, 8 July 2016
Thursday, 7 July 2016
To be injured or have reduced life expectancy or the life of a vegetable owing to others` incompetence or malevelance must be a tragedy of enormous proportions for all the family involved. When a public body and/or its employees supposedly with quango oversight is responsible it is only right that recompense be made for the trauma suffered and its consequences even if that entails lifelong support. But does that justify a capital sum of £366,666 annually for life in addition to annual income of £110,000 from the original overall capital sum awarded in a damages claim? This child`s life has been ruined by medical incompetence and now the tax payer is short of £11,000,000. Try as I might I can only conclude that that figure is not only astonishing but unreasonable.
Tuesday, 5 July 2016
"The representation status of defendants in magistrates’ courts is not recorded. Data on whether unrepresented defendants meet legal aid means and merits tests, and whether they chose to defend themselves, is not available."
Since the June 23rd referendum there has been a noticeable number of commentators observing that the result was as much a disconnection of people from their governments as a positive declaration of wishing to leave the E.U. Similar sentiments have been employed in describing the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Saunders from the cloud cuckoo land of American politics or Marine Le Pen`s emergence from the unsavoury shadow of her father`s past and current opinions. It could be argued that Corbyn`s cry for "new politics" is a branch of the same tree. Popularity, populism, fascism...........
Monday, 4 July 2016
But for unlikely legal decisions one doesn`t have to travel 4,000 miles. On June 9th I commented on the latest stage of what can only be described as a situation worthy to sit alongside Catch 22 or Kafka`s "The Trial" except it is reality and not a situation worthy of Monty Python. The unfortunate central character in all this has begun a hunger strike or so we are informed in this report.
Truly it is hard to believe that such official decisions can be allowed to progress unchecked by higher authority.