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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.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
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
Friday, 25 November 2016
Thursday, 24 November 2016
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
Tuesday, 22 November 2016
Monday, 21 November 2016
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
"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
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
Tuesday, 15 November 2016
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
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
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.
Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Tuesday, 8 November 2016
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
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
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
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
"To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of increasing reliance on district judges, what role they envisage for lay magistrates".
"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.
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.