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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Thursday, 16 November 2017

UNNECESSARY LEGAL BARKING

Since this blogger joined Twitter just over a year ago I have found it has proved often to be a very useful early warning system of events which reach daily newspapers and TV 24 hours later. Currently it seems there is what can usefully described as apoplexy amongst lawyers of both persuasions over the activation of section 162 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 to ascertain defendants' nationality when they attend at the start of a case.  Since all criminal cases begin in the magistrates` courts I have been very surprised that there seems to have been little or no public comment from the Magistrates Association; another reason why I consider this body a total waste of time for your average Justice of the Peace. The furore from the legal profession seems to resonate about the possibilities of deportation for offenders.  In 2016 there were 39,626 people who were removed from the UK or departed voluntarily after the initiation of removal. This is down from 41,879 in 2015. This figure excludes individuals refused entry at port and subsequently removed, in order to focus more closely on what most people normally think of as ‘deportation’. Of the 86,000 people in prison about 10,000 are foreign nationals. On 6th June last year during a House of Commons debate The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May) said "Since 2010, the Government have removed over 30,000 foreign national offenders, including 5,692 in 2015-16—the highest number since records began. The number of removals to other EU countries has more than tripled, from 1,019 in 2010-11 to 3,451 in 2015-16. We aim to deport all foreign national offenders at the earliest opportunity; however, legal or re-documentation barriers can frustrate immediate deportation. Increased rates of detection can also lead to the population of foreign national offenders increasing despite a record number of removals". In order to have accurate statistics it does not seem unreasonable that when a defendant is asked to identify him or herself that declaration of nationality or citizenship should be added to name address and date of birth.  None of the legal Twitters on my time line has offered reasoned argument why this process is so objectionable.  An editorial in today`s Law Society Gazette also fails to impress.

Regular readers of this blog will know I am a firm upholder of the rights of individuals in the criminal justice system and no friend of authority. Lawyers should use their bite where it can effect change  but  I fear the louder this legal barking the less effective it will be in practice because in this matter there are no intruders at the door.

3 comments:

  1. Dear Justice of the Peace,
    there is a point which neither your blog nor the government has addressed:

    I would assume that no one or hardly anyone would object if people were asked to state their nationality once a guilty verdict / sentence has been given, so that appropriate arrangements could be made.

    However, I cannot think of any legitimate reason why a defendant should be required to give his/her nationality at the start of proceedings in court because, clearly, nationality should have no bearing on how he/she is treated while still on trial and even less on the verdict. It is not too far-fetched to think that some jury members in a Crown Court or unfortunately perhaps even some magistrates, could be swayed in one direction or the other in their assessment of a defendant's truthfulness etc. when they are told the defendant's nationality.
    What is the legitimate need to know this at the start?

    Michael

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    Replies
    1. Just as identity of defendants must be established nationality is just another detail of that inquiry. I fail to understand why there is such vehement opposition by lawyers. As I wrote.......barking up another tree would be more effective

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    2. The point is that it allows the lengthy process of deportation to be started in parallel, and irrespective of the issue of guilt of the offence with which they are being charged.

      Or is it your contention that illegal immigrants can only be deported once they've been convicted of another offence? That would make a mockery of having borders or immigration controls.

      Of course there's some risk of prejudice in the jury and judiciary, just as there is when they see a defendant's skin colour or ostentatious religious affiliation, hear their accent, or don't much like the cut of their jib. If you assume bias and phobias in the jury and judiciary, then the justice system must already seem rather Problematical.

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