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, 8 August 2016


Whilst in office I tended not to attend events arranged by the social committee.  Generally I liked and/or respected my colleagues but there were exceptions as I suppose there are in all similar gatherings. But when it came to bench meetings I rarely missed the three or four times a year evening.  Apart from the formally constituted annual election meeting the other two or three in the year usually allowed a wide range of discussion  around an agenda often used for that very purpose.  That was until HMCTS took control and the Justices` Clerk, not the affable and familiar Deputy, assumed a greater role in the proceedings.  Indeed I well remember an occasion when that J.C. told the bench chairman as I was on my feet that the particular topic and point raised was not a matter for the bench.  He was told exactly where his authority ended.  Such occasions might now be stymied. On July 31st  Justices of the Peace Rules 2016 came into practice. Within these rules  amongst other things regarding bench meetings it is written:-

Justices for an area shall meet no less than once per year between 1 April and 31 March to carry out the purposes in paragraph 8.
The purposes of Bench meetings include:
a). enabling justices to liaise with other bodies to share information relevant to the
work of the magistrates’ court;
b). representing the views of Justices (principally through their Chairman or Deputy Chairmen) including to the Judicial Business Group and other governance groups of justices;
  c). making recommendations to the relevant body responsible for training for inclusion in an annual training plan and any training necessary to ensure that Justices maintain their competence;
 d). providing a forum for training agreed under the training plan.

By stipulating the minimum single meeting required (the election meeting) it is likely that many benches will abandon the idea of having any other meetings throughout the year.  Thus there will be less opportunity for  bench  members to discuss matters important to them but not necessarily contained within the above parameters.  This will increase the power and influence of HMCTS and reduce yet again the ability of individual justices to have some control of their judicial career.  

I hope I`m just a Jeremiah making noises off stage but I doubt it. 

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