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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A TIT FOR THE TOP AT MANCHESTER POLICE

Is there any wonder why police in this country are steadily losing the respect of those whom they purport to serve.  Another senior female officer appears to have had tantrums more befitting a toddler following the example of Maxine de Brunner at the Met. This involved an Assistant Chief Constable allegedly baring her breast to a female Superintendent in a demonstration that breast size is not an important factor in securing promotion. Greater Manchester Police was the constabulary involved. This organisation is quite often in the news for the less than salubrious goings on within its ranks.

When the next scandal at Scotland Yard hits the headlines as it surely will perhaps the Home Secretary will take seriously public lack of confidence in policing.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

MORE ON CRIMINAL BEHAVIOUR ORDERS

It`s almost painful to write this after my last post.  CRASBOs are a total waste of everyone`s time and energy.  Nothing can demonstrate more the futility of such a disposal as this case in Huddersfield last week. Such a disposal IMHO does not punish so called criminal activity, does not deter it and does not prevent it. An early recipient of a CRASBO (above pictured) reacted in a predictable manner.  Perhaps somebody more intuitive than I can offer  a positive opinion.  Crime Prosecution Service guidance on criminal behaviour orders is available here. There are no statistics on these orders that I can source but interesting statistics on ASBOs and subsequent breaches can be found here.

Friday, 25 November 2016

MAD HATTER LAW

On June 21st I posted on what I believed was the first ever application for a criminal behaviour order [CRASBO] I wasn`t very enthusiastic at the time and my opinion has not changed.  Just what sense does it make to exclude a scumbag from one borough for five years or five days?  It is beyond belief that our law makers can follow the discredited failings of ASBO legislation with this.  Some might say that the sanction of custody if the CRASBO is broken warrants in itself this disposal. The same sort of thinking informed Drinking Banning Orders. I would opine that either punish the offence per se appropriately or not but do not displace it for another area to repeat the exercise. This is Alice in Wonderland law enacted by the Mad Hatter.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

NO MORE LIP SERVICE FROM POLICE CHIEFS

From time to time since this blog`s inception I have commented on the way in which police, particularly senior officers, treat their own with favour when it comes to cases of alleged misconduct.  The message from senior politicians over the years seemed to have finally gotten through when recent changes to rules allowing resignation to signify the cessation of misconduct proceedings  allowed for such hearings to be continued unless there were exceptional circumstances.  The Government introduced a bar on officers from leaving the force before misconduct investigations in an amendment to police regulations which came into effect in January 2015. It did not apply to ongoing investigations. According to Police Professional  in July, a report revealed that half of officers facing gross misconduct investigations in the past two years resigned or retired before their cases were heard and of the 833 officers added to the 'disapproved register' by forces in England and Wales in its first two years, 416 left before their cases were resolved. Of the 369 who left in the year between December 2014 and November 2015, 202 were dismissed, 147 resigned and 20 retired, while in the 12 months from December 2013, 215 were dismissed, 219 resigned and 30 retired. 

The ages old proverb of giving the devil a finger and he`ll take the whole hand is nowhere to be excelled by British police chiefs. The rather loose wording of the rules has been employed recently by Cleveland Constabulary in the case of former PC Kelly Jarvis. A spokesweasel from the force was quoted as saying, " In some cases officers are allowed to resign prior to a misconduct hearing where there are exceptional circumstances. "This is one of those cases where there are exceptional circumstances and after careful consideration the officer has been allowed to resign.” 

At a time in our history when "experts" have been discredited, when the risk of many sources of terrorism is increasing, when public failures of police investigations and subsequent cover ups  are regular news items, when multi millionaires finance  attempts to curb a free press  it is nothing less than essential that so called police chiefs do more than merely pay lip service to being open to the public on all aspects of their responsibilities.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

TOUGHER COMMUNITY SENTENCES; HIGHLY UNLIKELY

Today it is reported that the Lord Chief Justice favours tougher community sentences instead of jail.  This aspiration would seem to be based upon the probation services in their current assorted framework being able to provide the supervision and organisation required.  In the opinion of many closely involved that aspiration will remain just that; an aspiration. The transformation of a national probation service during the previous government into a patchwork system of outsourcing does not provide this blogger with any optimism in that regard notwithstanding the possibility of magistrates` courts sentencing powers being increased to twelve months custody. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

TODAY`S WAITROSE SPECIALS

We have recently been told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that hundreds of millions of pounds will be spent on "infra structure". Seems having  police forces with adequate numbers for the ever diverse tasks forced upon them is an exception. Who needs infrastructure when eg  travel from London to Birmingham will be down to 40 minutes at an ever increasing cost at an ever receding date?

NO INSURANCE THEN WE`LL TAKE YOUR CAR

I know they do things differently in Northern Ireland but confiscating a car from a third time no insurance offender is unusual. Certainly the punishment fits the crime and would be a useful tool for benches in England and Wales.

Monday, 21 November 2016

HOWARD LEAGUE AND JUSTICES` CLERKS SOCIETY

I have never been a supporter of the Howard League. Indeed whist its policy of the abolition of all custodial sentences of less than six months is in force (and it is a virtual certainty it will not change)   I doubt many J.P.s are cheer leaders for it either. Having made that point it was disquieting to read of an incident recently where the League was helpful in the case of a juvenile living in a children`s home who was detained overnight by police  on a magistrate`s warrant for the non payment of a fine. Although I personally never signed up to be such an individual, colleagues who had volunteered to be available out of court hours for such applications were clearly instructed to contact an on duty legal advisor when police arrived with such a request.  

To the general reader this is another stick in the armoury of the Howard League with which to beat magistrates. Truly it is the Justices Clerk Society`s responsibility. This begs the question as to what is exactly this so called "society".  It has no web site. It sits under an umbrella site The Public Affairs Company where it is described as "The Professional Society for lawyers who advise magistrates".  There appears to be no public record of its activities. There is no doubt this appears to be a shadowy some might say  a shady quasi committee of around twenty five senior civil servants with enormous but poorly regulated  power.  And as with similar such groupings it makes sure when the fan is struck by fecal matter its name and purpose remain unsullied.

Friday, 18 November 2016

ADDICTS NEED TREATMENT; NOT FINES

If ever there was an example of the futility of dealing with addicts in a court setting it was demonstrated by the well meaning but pious words of the chairman of the bench at Furness Magistrates` Court earlier this week.

HILLSBOROUGH AS THROUGH THE EYES OF SIR NORMAN BETTISON

The following review of Sir Norman Bettison`s account of Hillsborough from Police Professional might be of interest.


"Sir Norman Bettison has published his account of the Hillsborough tragedy, from witnessing the horror first hand to the still ongoing criminal investigations, including new details of what went on in the aftermath of the disaster.

Twenty-seven years have passed and no one has asked Sir Norman Bettison – the man who symbolises the now accepted narrative of a cover-up over Hillsborough, what he saw on that fateful day on April 15, 1989.

Not even the inquests at which he gave testimony, inquests inquiring into the cause of death of the 96 victims.

Sir Norman Bettison publishes his account today (November 17) in Hillsborough Untold, knowing it will be pored over for any suggestion from him that Liverpool supporters were to blame for the crush on the terraces.

Police Professional can reveal that the book makes no such claim, aside from a brief mention of evidence given by Merseyside Police mounted officers who witnessed a number not helping the situation.

Sir Norman gets to finally say how he went from spectator to witness, to become involved in the recovery exercise and then part of the ‘Wain team’ that submitted evidence to lawyers acting for the force, for which he has been labelled part of a ‘black propaganda unit’.

When, at the latest inquests, he began to be questioned on what he saw on that spring day, the coroner directed the barrister’s contribution away from the event itself.

Sir Norman begins the book by describing how he came to have a seat at the Liverpool v Nottingham Forest FA Cup semi-final and talks of the moment his “emergency procedure training kicked in”, and eventually witnessing the identification of victims as they lay in vast rows in the temporary mortuary.

It is extremely surprising his account has never been sought by any inquiry before.

South Yorkshire Police has since been accused, using parliamentary privilege, of being “rotten to the core” for its alleged portrayal of supporters’ behaviour.

In 12 days leading up to Lord Justice Taylor’s inquiry, remarkably held just one month after the tragedy, Sir Norman explains how a team of officers under Chief Superintendent Terry Wain gathered officers’ accounts.

A major aspect of then Chief Inspector Bettison’s junior management role in the team was to summarise 81 accounts selected to provide “the most objective evidence”. He describes this summary and what was to become known as the Wain Report as internal assessments commissioned by lawyers. However, he claims they show that no blame was being put onto the fans.

In his summary, under the heading ‘Behaviour of supporters’, Sir Norman says any reports of unruly behaviour was limited to a relatively small minority of spectators.

He claims not to have witnessed any accounts being altered but they were an analysis of the evidence that officers were able to give and not an attempt to put blame onto fans. They contained “expressions of emotion and intemperate language” – not the basis of statements for the purpose of an investigation.

Sir Norman explains the process that was initiated by lawyers to make the accounts suitable for the purpose they were to be used, removing matters of opinion, for example.

He went on to become one of the most senior police officers in the country, including a spell as chief constable of Merseyside Police, an appointment that was almost prevented when local MP Maria Eagle first denounced the Wain team as a ‘black propaganda unit’ using parliamentary privilege.

Later, as chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, the accusations over Sir Norman’s role after the disaster resurfaced with the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s 2012 report.

It led to a referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and eventually to his early resignation. The book details the political wrangling that led to the police authority to call for him to step down, in an attempt to head off controversy ahead of police and crime commissioner elections.

He deals with the several accusations that have been levelled against him, such as the one made by a fellow MBA student, someone who gave money to the Hillsborough campaign, claiming Sir Norman boasted of his role in concocting evidence that drunken Liverpool fans were to blame. The dates given by this witness clearly dispel his assertion, he says.

Sir Norman is also critical of the stance taken by the IPCC, accusing it of conducting a “pedestrian and unstructured” criminal investigation since 2012.

And he publishes details of emails that, he claims, show its deputy chair had a report rewritten and findings changed to show he was guilty of gross misconduct by interfering in his police authority’s decision.

Sir Norman says there were many factors at play in the disaster, just as it was more than a captain of a ship and an iceberg that led to the sinking of the Titanic, coincidentally on April 15. The Hillsborough stadium furniture, notably fences erected to segregate fans and prevent pitch invasions, severely hindered the escape of those who were crushed on the terrace.

The decision to allocate just 23 (28 per cent) of turnstiles – with a flow rate known to be 750 per hour – to the 24,756 Liverpool supporters meant they would never have entered the stadium in time for kick-off.

But he does not minimise the five minutes of indecision by the match commander, former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who approved the opening of Gate C of Leppings Lane end to relieve the crush outside the ground.

“I knew nothing of the decision that was being made, at that precise moment, to open a concertina exit gate and allow 2,000 more people to stream in, unmanaged and undirected, to join the throng on the terraces behind the goal.

“The ultimate question as to culpability for the deaths in the spring sunshine at Hillsborough is right here.”

Thursday, 17 November 2016

LATEST CRIMINAL JUSTICE STATISTICS

On the morning when Michael Gove is reported as saying that far too many offenders are imprisoned for far too long the latest statistics from the MOJ are published which more or less make his case. As far as custodial sentencing at magistrates` courts for the year ended June 2016 the numbers below have been extracted from the analysis. Of those appearing at magistrates` courts 79.6% were found or pleaded guilty and of those sentenced by the same courts only 3.6% were subject to an immediate custodial sentence. Such numbers should be compulsory study for those who persistently complain that the lower court is too custody happy.







Wednesday, 16 November 2016

IS THERE PREJUDICIAL SENTENCING OF ETHNIC MINORITIES?

All you need to know, according to this report published today, on custodial sentencing of ethnic minorities in crown courts. No comment from me but read for yourself.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

DOWNFALL OF PATRICIANS

Chickens coming home to roost; hoist by his own petard; getting his just deserts..........these idioms and more just cannot do justice to the story of a local council deputy leader in Scotland.  Rarely, if ever, would a tale a year old be worthy of comment but boy oh boy this one is a lesson for all those whose influence and power however limited is distanced from those who elected them. It`s a very long very thin thread but it stretches from South Lanarkshire to Washington D.C. 

Mr Jackie Burns who was responsible for the closure of all the public lavatories under the control of his council was caught short and by the police one Saturday night last year.   

From Louis XVI by South Lanarkshire via Keith Vaz to Donald Trump and others yet to be discovered disregard for the plebs will bring the downfall of the patricians. One can only hope their trajectory will be shallow enough to allow replacements to secure the future.

Monday, 14 November 2016

JUDGEMENT BY ONE`S PEERS AFTER BREXIT

Amidst the thousands of column inches on the Trump triumph and further revelations about our disintegrating prisons the MOJ released a little noticed statement a few days ago that in just over two weeks the age limit for serving on a jury will be raised from 70 to 75.   In view of my own and colleagues` compulsory retirement at 70 I have spent a minute or two asking myself why this change.

Ever since the closure of the loophole over a decade ago  allowing mainly middle class professionals to evade jury duty one would have thought that any further changes would have involved the filtering of eligibility to ensure that only those with the capability of following  the often labyrinthine and elevated language of the court would be called upon to do this civil duty. One it seems would have been wrong.  My thinking initially provided negative reasons for this sudden change.  By extending the age criterion mainly retirees would now be available to serve. Such people would not need to be recompensed for loss of earnings; tax payers` money would be saved.  There is no doubt that political and social opinions progress to the right for a majority as age progresses to the last decade or two of life. Perhaps having a reactionary minded pensioner on a jury would persuade younger members to convict more defendants especially in crimes of a violent or sexual nature.  What ever the weasel minded bright sparks at the MOJ had in mind it was certainly not for the best interests of those now available to be corralled into service.  Perhaps it is a panic measure to placate those lobbyists eg Help the Aged who are all fired up with the current discussions on the removal of the so called three way lock on pensions. With age related disability in the over 70s it does not require a crystal ball to predict that much time and effort will be expended by MOJ  beaurocracy in response to those called who will be unable for myriad reasons to serve on a jury. I find it very difficult to explain this decision in a positive light except perhaps it has finally dawned on the aforesaid weasels that far too many jurors are just unable to fulfil the requirements in practice owing to having a barely acceptable grasp of ordinary spoken English. Of course there are no hard facts as far as I am aware in the public domain on this topic. 

When Brexit finally begins to be implemented a priority for the MOJ should be to restrict jury duty to British citizens only.  In future if one million Poles and two million other Europeans wish to remain in this country they will be welcome as far as I am concerned but it would be against natural justice for them to sit in judgement on British citizens if they themselves did not wish to become the peers of the defendants. After all isn`t the phrase commonly quoted; judgement by one`s peers.  
 

Friday, 11 November 2016

A PAT ON THE BACK





During my time on the bench there were many wasted hours of down time owing to the ineptitude of the court`s listings officer, the CPS,  the defence lawyers involved or a combination of all of those  plus a.n. other cause.   After years of thumb twiddling, endless fill ups of caffeine, conversations sometimes out of politeness with colleagues I resolved to make fairly extensive notes of sittings where I considered there was content of some significance.......at least to me if nobody else.  My memoir below is such an example. 


There are enough opportunities to describe some of the shortcomings of the workings of the magistrates` courts system. Indeed much frustration has been ventilated here but the 10.00a.m. start of a recent sitting demonstrated to me at least a facet of English justice of which I felt justly proud to be a very very small part.


In the witness box with a Spanish interpreter sworn in at hand a young woman recently arrived from South America was to make a statutory declaration. She had recently received a notice from a firm of bailiffs demanding around £600 in fine plus costs for non payment of a fine for a motoring offence. Her declaration stated that for various reasons she had received no earlier notification that any offence had been committed, no demand for payment and queried the offence details themselves. The procedure was carefully explained and translated for her and she left the courtroom with a perfect understanding of what might follow. I thought to myself what other country would provide such a service at no cost to a short term visitor with only her native language available for all but the most basic topics.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

UNCLE DONALD;THE UNTHINKABLE


The stars and stripes should be at half mast.

UNTHINKABLE

Below is copied an exchange yesterday in the House of Lords. It seems incredible that the answer by Lord Keen [bottom of post] is so ambiguous.  With many in the legal world opposed to extending magistrates` sentencing powers to 12 months custody it would be unthinkable that any government spokesman could not confirm that existing rights of appeal for offenders in that scenario would not be granted but then just occasionally the unthinkable actually happens.

 

Lord Faulks Conservative

Will my noble and learned friend take this opportunity to show the Government’s support for the entire cohort of the judiciary, whether it be the Supreme Court, the Divisional Court or the magistracy? Can he also confirm that, were magistrates to be given additional powers, it is overwhelmingly likely that those sentencing powers would be subject to a right of appeal, as of right, to the Crown Court?

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

My Lords, we have a judiciary of the highest calibre. We have a free press, which is not always of the highest calibre. Sensationalist and ill-informed attacks can undermine public confidence in the judiciary, but our public can have every confidence in our judiciary, a confidence which I believe must be shared by the Executive.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, would the Minister return to the second question asked by his noble friend Lord Faulks, which I believe he did not answer?

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

I apologise for having overlooked the second part of the question, having been distracted by the first part. I acknowledge that the second part of the question is in point. The question of an automatic right of appeal if sentencing powers are increased clearly has to be an important consideration.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

DOUBLE DOUBLE TOIL AND TROUBLE



Speaking to a former a colleague not so long ago she told me of a recent interview her sister, also a J.P., had for appointment to the local Advisory Committee. When the subject of ethnic and other diversity on the bench came round as of course expected she replied that it would be preferable if benches were definitely not constituted as was the interviewing panel. That panel consisted of three white women aged approximately between 55 and 65. The results of the interviews will not be known for a couple of months. Apparently my colleague`s sister is not holding out much hope for success.  I don`t blame her.  Years ago I too was interviewed for a similar position in front of a similarly constituted panel. My application was rejected.

Monday, 7 November 2016

THE SCOURGE OF OFFICIOUS POLICE OFFICERS

On September 15th I suggested that the only way to curb the use of mobile phones being used by drivers was a first time offender being banned for three months.  However I also pointed out that if police forces were so under manned that fewer patrol cars were in our towns and cities to catch offenders then no deterrent would be effective. But in that metropolis of Grantham where the farm animals probably outnumber the humans it seems police were right on the spot to achieve another collar by their devotion to duty in reporting for prosecution a driver unable to clear a windscreen because the fluid bottle had run dry.   

I am amazed at myself for feeling so outraged when I read the report.  Surely by any standard such an offence.......no other offence seems to have been committed.........warranted a simple warning from police.  Indeed the bench could have used its discretion in the level of fine.  

I recollect an incident when I had recently begun working professionally and my car at the time was a very old and a bit rusty Mini Cooper S in mechanically perfect condition but with some mickey mouse door decorations stuck on by a previous owner.  I was stopped by a police car whilst well within the limit (30MPH) and after the usual questions on ownership, insurance etc I was made to test every single aspect of the vehicle so an officious bastard of a young cop could check if everything from warning lights, to brake pedal, to handbrake,  to seatbelts, to steering wheel, to brake lights, to indicators,  to windscreen washers was working effectively. They were. His face took on the appearance of one miserable so and so as if he were fourth in line for three free cup final tickets.  He kicked my front off side tyre and returned to his vehicle.  The fact that I remember every minute of that stop so long ago indicates the effect it had on me. 

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Friday, 4 November 2016

DAVID CAMERON:THE BEST OF TIMES AND THE WORST OF TIMES

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only".

I wonder what Dickens would have made of this fiasco.  A prime minister within a coalition offers in his party`s election manifesto a referendum on an issue which has divided this self same  party for over a generation.  Against all the odds and to his own utter amazement he wins that election and is faced with putting his commitment to the people. Surely his best of times.  So he goes to Angela Merkel with hardly enough of an argument or plea to cause a blip in her intransigence   hoping against hope that she would offer the bare minimum of a piece of paper with her signature on it to cover his arse. Locked into what is a dream for some of his party  that is becoming his nightmare he and his cohorts  fail to frighten the electorate into submitting to his will. He wakes on June 24th assuring us he will remain as prime minister only to resign a short time later whereupon the final ignominy of this incompetent unprepared inept prime minister arrives; his worst of times, and he resigns his seat.  

Chickens are returning in droves to roost. It would appear that the crass incompetent advisors and parliamentarians who steered the referendum bill through parliament and who voted six to one for it did not even realise exactly what they were voting for. As a Brexiteer all my adult life I am dismayed that those same incompetents are now calling foul when faced with the inevitable consequences of their own fallibility. Castigating the High Court judges who have pronounced on the legal position is a disgraceful reaction to their own failings. There cannot be true democracy without a balance of law and representative government. If the Supreme Court upholds the decision it will demonstrate that this country with its unwritten constitution cannot have referendums on policy. Such a device has now been demonstrated as totally incompatible with a parliament which makes law.  

One thing is for sure: there might have been previous leaders with great expectations who could be summed up by Dickens but Cameron will never make that company. "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

CPNs ARE A THIN EDGE TO A THICK WEDGE

The last six years of the prime minister`s arguably authoritarian rule at the Home Office is coming back to bite her where it hurts........in the court of public opinion.  Inquiries into child abuse and rioting Yorkshire miners, restricting immigration of foreign students, indexing foreign workers on companies` payrolls are but a few of her preferred options now in the spotlight.  Another perhaps more esoteric responsibility she had in her previous life was her involvement in setting up the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act in 2014.  Within the many subsections was the facility to establish Community Protection Notices.  Jobsworths at local councils can issue orders to an individual to do or not do something with a criminal sanction if the order is not obeyed.  The only requirement is that said official  need only to believe the conduct in question is having a detrimental effect on the area; an incredibly low burden of proof.  Indeed a householder in Rotherham was required to clean his windows.  

This restriction on simple activities with virtually no overall control or appeal system is just another such reduction in a citizen`s liberty.  A police officer can order a person to leave his/her home if there is merely a suspicion of domestic abuse within the address.  A person, usually a man, with no criminal record can be and has been ordered by police to give 24 hours notice of his intention to have sexual relations.  

We observe with dismay the reduction of human rights and freedom of expression in Turkey and Russia especially press and TV yet millionaires with sexual peccadilloes parade themselves as public benefactors when financing a system to restrict free reporting by the press.  We read today of a disgraced M.P. currently under investigation by police being elected to a select committee of the House of Commons; not any old select committee  but the Commons Justice Committee with Tory M.P.s whipped to vote in his favour.  These are but a thin edge to a very thick wedge.

From many angles political decisions are being seen and rightly so to be at best of little benefit to most people and  at worst self serving benefits for those who govern.  Such is the cause of there being a Trump and a Corbyn, two sides of the same authoritarian coin, within a single voting episode of taking their respective countries to ruin. Where are those honest and courageous enough to speak up?

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

SALAMI SLICING THE MAGISTRACY

An interesting answer from Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) to the question,

"To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of increasing reliance on district judges, what role they envisage for lay magistrates".  


Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

"We are committed to giving magistrates the strongest possible role in a more proportionate courts system, now and in the future. Magistrates and District Judges bring different but valuable skills to our justice system. We are working with magistrates to review their role to make sure that the justice system is making full use of their skills, and that they are dealing with more of the crimes that affect and matter most to their communities". [my underline]

With my pre disposition to the view that this government in line with the previous wishes a full time professional judiciary for all or most of the sittings at magistrates` courts I read into the reply that this is civil service speak for a further indication in the process of salami slicing before our very eyes the functions of Justices of the Peace.

CCTV! POLICE SHOULD RECRUIT EX STASI

It was widely reported that a specialist shop selling accordions was robbed recently.  Yesterday the local police force appealed for any witnesses to come forward.  All very simple in our current world. But a closer look at the reports and it is revealed that the robbery took place about three  months ago. The appeal for witnesses is based upon newly released images from a CCTV camera.  NEWLY RELEASED!  Why has it taken all this time to produce images which with the passage of time are unlikely to wake up a dormant memory. Any regular attendee at a magistrates` court trial will have experience of police failings in this regard; lawyers and J.P.s most of all.  

It is common knowledge that the U.K. is the country in the world most subject to surveillance by CCTV.  It`s a paradox that such over capacity is used so inefficiently especially by those who clamour to increase its coverage of all that we as citizens undertake as the regular activities of our normal law abiding lives.  Perhaps such overseers should hire ex members of Stasi to improve their performance or watch that superb film The Lives of Others.