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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.
Monday, 31 July 2017
Societies do not implode overnight. Blatent anti semitism openly tolerated in the Labour Party is not an instant reacion to Israel`s survival in 1967 or the Entebbe rescue in 1976 both of which were lauded by most people and parties in the West. Drug addiction on its current scale didn`t arise from nowhere. Private health insurence was unknown for 99% of the population forty years ago. Nations and their societies are living organic entities; they are subject to continual incremental change. That process can develop in many directions and each of us can offer some input. That being the case those whom we endow with our votes from time to time have failed us, are failing us and God help us will continue to fail us. Perhaps I should change the title of this blog to Jeremiah Justice of the Peace.
Friday, 28 July 2017
There are lessons to be learnt and changes to be implemented. I have often wondered why an even number of jurors is selected. Surely the principle of an odd number as in Scotland even with a more limited majority decision required makes more sense and would obviate the need for mistrial outcomes. The Law Commission or another appropriate body should undertake a redefining of what makes for a guilty verdict in magistrates` courts and opinion expressed on the 2/3 majority remaining valid and withheld from the public.
Thursday, 27 July 2017
Paul Gascoyne; Gaza, a former highly rated international footballer with a sorry record of domestic violence and inebriation as an alcoholic leading to severe mental disorders was, last year, the subject of a viscous assault which caused severe injuries. The offender pleaded guilty to common assault. The report is here. My question is whether or not such an assault was far in excess of common assault. Should it have been charged as the more serious and consequential ABH with the possibility of an initial not guilty plea leading to an expensive crown court trial? I leave it to readers to make their own conclusions but in my opinion this is a truly awful example of my opening sentences of this post. The CPS sacrifices quality justice for quantity injustices.
Wednesday, 26 July 2017
Have you secured sufficient numbers of magistrates to the proposed rota for extended hours? Similarly have you DJs in place. If to my first question the answer is "no" will you attempt to use DJs more often? Have you sufficient of them for your proposed needs? Do you have a division of sittings in mind for JPs and DJs?
In the last twenty years begging and vagrancy have become more apparent in larger towns and cities and with the accession of the East European states to the EU and thus to our shores the problem has increased. The Victorians had a simple way of dealing with the down and outs of society 150 years ago; the workhouse where basic provision was made to shelter and feed such unfortunates until such time they could find their feet in a winner takes nearly all society. The unenlightened attitudes of local councils since the turn of the millennium have been brought into the spotlight by the tragic events at Grenfell Tower. The revelations still to be made will demonstrate the inadequacy of local government. The unadulterated rottenness of elected and employed individuals exposed in Rochdale and other northern towns when confronted by Muslim scum whose heinous activities were allowed to prosper by the ineptitude at the best and politically correct tolerance at worst will long be remembered as a carbuncle on the face of these councils. In Oxford the Labour controlled council has decreed that homeless people "who keep possessions in doorways could face fines of up to £2,500 for being ‘detrimental’ to the area". As magistrates a guiding light on sentencing has always been that offenders should not be set up to fail by the imposition of impossible to fulfil requirements. The burghers of Oxford are deserving of public disgrace. They should be pilloried and showered with rotten tomatoes. To threaten vagrants with what appears to be a form of locally approved ASBOs the breaching of which will not be able to be funded is a recipe for failure. This country was made great during the Victorian era in spirit as well as in prosperity. There is no doubt that a modern form of the workhouse with compulsory attendance under some form of supervision combined with medical assistance to cure a drug habit would be beneficial to all with lives saved, criminality reduced and in the long run financial expenditure reduced. But we are plebs; who cares what we think. It`s just more pub talk putting the world to rights.
Tuesday, 25 July 2017
Actions of police are under the microscope of public opinion at a wholly different level. They used to be literally a law unto themselves. Not a week goes by when that attitude is revealed still to be motivating a not inconsiderable number of police officers. Last year 108 police officers were dismissed for misconduct. The bar for sacking is set very high. Much of the Policing and Crime Bill`s sections on police discipline became law a few months ago in the corresponding Act. The amount of criminality within the police is quite shocking for the layman to comprehend the Met Police being the cheerleader.
As a result of public policy by the Home Office led by a certain Mrs T. May police were instructed to reduce "stop & search" and the pursuit of those using vehicles to evade arrest or questioning. The unintended consequences have been an unholy increase in knife crime and an explosion in criminals evading arrest by using mopeds as getaway vehicles. There is considerable controversy over the numbers within these topics. That controversy is both political and statistical in quantity and quality.
What is not in doubt is the increase in mob behaviour generally when disputed matters go public epitomised by the situation of the baby Charlie and that surrounding areas where permission has been granted for fracking. Decisions by legally authorised public bodies are being challenged by no less than mob rule. There are many definitions of "mob" but they all have a similar underlying theme of the possibility of violence resulting; "a large or disorderly crowd; especially : one bent on riotous or destructive action".
One essential requirement for a democratic society to exist or even flourish is the freedom to demonstrate on the streets of our towns and cities and where such peaceful protest is sanctioned by police. Such freedom to protest is itself never far from dispute eg the flying of the flags of a terrorist organisation recently in London where the police did not intervene on the basis that they considered that the non military part of the organisation was indicated on the flags.
With Brexit negotiations in effect, a left wing take over of Labour in the offing, a Tory Party in disarray, little indication of large numbers of Muslims willing to adapt to a British society and to accept their minority status, pork barrel politics to bribe the DUP and Scots Nats still howling independance, reduced public confidence in our institutions bodes ill for a harmonious future. All those however loosely described as The Establishment must react to the twitching antennae of public mores and do their utmost to unite where there is currently disunity. Such decisiveness must come from the top. Theresa May must go NOW.
Monday, 24 July 2017
Friday, 21 July 2017
When a population loses confidence in all that comprises a justice system black clouds on the horizon are just a pre cursor to a storm ahead.
Thursday, 20 July 2017
Wednesday, 19 July 2017
Tuesday, 18 July 2017
Nationwide it seems there has been a steady increase in begging whether through increased poverty and/or straightened circumstances owing to addiction(s). The problem local authorities have is, of course, what to do about it. Leamington Magistrates Court on behalf of the local council has issued one such vagrant with the ubiquitous CRASBO. This will solve nothing except that the offender will be before another court sooner or later on a criminal charge for which he will probably be imprisoned.
This little story is typical of so much that this and previous governments do in order to paper over deep problems in our society. Today`s announcement by the Home Secretary that she seeks to introduce new legislation on banning knives is just another pathetic attempt to remedy what are thought to be intractable problems. They are not. They require only honesty, money and a sincere wish to get to grip with one of society`s problems. If that requires authoritarian means so be it I say.
PS Last month on 21st June I predicted legislation on knives by the new Justice Secretary. I didn`t think it would come so soon. Seems I had the wrong department in mind but the right idea.
Friday, 14 July 2017
He does not mention Guidelines or public protection except for "impact". I also consider it questionable if "the right thing to do" is part of a structured sentencing exercise. As far as I am aware the victims` considerations should not inform sentencing. But then having been appointed 20 years ago my attitudes, training and experience might now be considered anti deluvian if I were still active.
Tuesday, 11 July 2017
Friday, 7 July 2017
Notwithstanding the above I am indebted to a commenter for bringing to my attention this case. After a verdict of not guilty had been announced the bench chairman Dr Ian Haffenden is quoted in the penultimate paragraph as saying, “although we think that the defendant may have taken the items, the prosecution has not proved it so”. If this were in a Scottish courtroom the verdict would have been not proven and would have been respected as such. In England, however, it is an absolute disgrace. The chairman has cast aspersions on a woman his bench found to be not guilty because they applied the test; beyond reasonable doubt. To confirm their doubt is beyond belief. There is a tradition, I know no better, that even if a decision is split 2:1 a bench must not make that public. This bench chairman should be held to account before the appropriate authority. He was out of order. However it is unlikely that the defendant will have the wherewithal intellectually or financially to pursue that option. Indeed it is possible that her relief in being found not guilty will in itself be enough satisfaction for her.
Before I was appointed a chairman I sat often enough to observe not a few occupants of the middle chair who liked the sound of their own voice too much for their own good. I took note to put a five second mental delay before a major input to proceedings and to make that input as pithy as possible whilst ensuring my meaning and intention were clear to all. That, in my opinion, is common sense; a requirement for appointment 20 years ago but sadly no longer so.
Thursday, 6 July 2017
Wednesday, 5 July 2017
Penelope Gibbs, a former magistrate and director of the organisation Transform Justice, says: “However good they are, we need magistrates to be truly representative of the communities they serve if trust in the criminal justice system is to be maintained. We don’t have enough BAME magistrates, and those we have are overwhelmingly middle-class and middle-aged. Where are the magistrates from the Somali, Roma and Romanian communities? Nowhere to be seen.”
The pusillanimous final two sentences sum up quite elegantly the type of reasoning put forward to pursue this so called argument. In order to serve judgement upon one`s fellow man [for the politically correct baggage followers the term embraces woman] for a start a high quality of use and understanding of the English language is required. Arabic speaking Somalis who are here have generally been refugees from a brutal dictatorship over the last two decades. Perhaps the second generation might emerge in the next decade who would be able to satisfy the requirements of appointment. They would be treated by appointment committees on their merits just as every would be magistrate has been, is and will be without regard to ethnicity. Roma by their very culture are not citizens living in a fixed locality although there are exceptions of course. The writer quoted above has nothing but invective to shout about in line with her political cause. Romanians in this country are by study generally manual workers with ultimate intentions to return to their country of origin. I am, incidentally, of the opinion that the current rules on appointment to the magistracy which do not require British citizenship, require re-assessment.
Be careful what you wish for. That hackneyed phrase could come back to haunt Penelope Gibbs, her acolytes and those funding her. There is no doubt in my mind that government generally would be happy to see the function of lay magistrates reduced to only presiding over simple offending eg TV licensing sitting in a back office a hundred miles removed from any courtroom. The day is not so far away when non locally affiliated single district judges will rule supreme in every courtroom. Perhaps after so called ethnicity comparisons of their middle aged white composition leads to some disquiet she will rue the time bemoaning a dearth of a bench which reflected, warts and all, the population of towns and boroughs in England. I personally think warts should be removed from the face of justice not excluding judges, lawyers, police when warts include those unfit irrespective of race, creed, religion, colour perceptions or so called ethnic diversity. If positive discrimination is at the heart of the argument let it be made openly. That would be an honest subject of debate.
The table below might be of some interest