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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Friday, 3 February 2017


"Mrs Susan Preston JP, a magistrate assigned to the South Derbyshire Bench, has been issued with a formal warning following an investigation into her conduct. Mrs Preston had declined to adjudicate on a case in the Family Court because of her personal views about same sex couple parenting. The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice considered that this amounted to misconduct and have issued Mrs Preston with a formal warning. Mrs Preston has also been asked to stand down from the Family Panel with immediate effect.”

The above notice was published by the Judicial Investigations Office on January 26th. On first reading one might conclude that this lady ought to have known better than express her presumably long held opinion on same sex parenting. It is apparent that the J.I.O. took her presumed admission of her strong opinion as a violation of her *judicial oath or that she fell foul of the rules of judicial conduct and/or within the The Judicial Discipline (Prescribed Procedures) Regulations.

I would put another point of view.  Let me begin by stating the obvious: we all have prejudices.  We are required, not just in the magistracy but in many other occupations, to recognise them and to put aside these prejudices in the course of our duties. There have been well publicised occasions where such such prejudice has been recognised but instead of being put aside has been admitted as reason for the pursuit or non pursuit of an action, legal or professional. The Belfast birthday cake case comes to mind. 

The thinking behind the decision on Mrs Preston is flawed.  In a world where honesty and personal integrity are valued over political correctness this woman would not have had her reputation besmirched. Shame on all those who brought  about this situation.

“I, _________ , do swear by Almighty God that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second in the office of ________ , and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.”


  1. As a disinterested observer I would have thought that Mrs Preston acted perfectly correctly - she has effectively "declared an interest" and declined to be involved because of this. Think of the furore that would have ensued had she been involved and the verdict had gone against the couple in question

  2. This is the thin edge of the wedge. Most magistrates' who are subject to conduct investigations because they have personal opinions simply resign. They are volunteers, why would they go through a lengthy conduct investigation which is cloaked in secrecy.
    Resignations are simply covered by the term "personal reasons".
    Penelope Gibbs raised this in her blog Transform Justice on 30 Dec 2016.
    I have had to post this under the anonymous reply for fear that I will be subject to an investigation for having a personal view.

  3. So would it have been acceptable for her to have (for example) a strongly held opinion that imprisoning offenders is wrong, and remain a magistrate?

    1. Re: Anonymous at 18.53, yes it would be quite OK for someone with a strongly held opinion that imprisoning offenders is wrong to remain a magistrate. But, of course, only if they are willing to sit on all cases that come before them, including cases where imprisonment is a realistic prospect, and only if their approach to decision- making/sentencing is to apply the law and the guidelines and to put their own personal views to one side.

      Mrs Preston plainly failed to meet this requirement in relation to the business of the Family Court and it was right that she was asked to stand down.