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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

AT THIS MERRY TIME THE CANARY IS WARNING

Council Tax more than any other tax can be seen to be used where we live and work.  Many untruths about the results for non payers are propagated by political vested interests.  The actual numbers receiving the ultimate sanction and why can be accessed here.

There was great publicity from the  diarrheac output of the MOJ press office not so long ago on a new offence  of controlling or coercive behaviour under section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015. The result? not very much........just another example of how government thinks that throwing more legislation at a problem will cure it. 

So begins another period of hedonism where the word "merry" is the common adjective.  Thinking about it that word is rarely used in any other context. My opinion for what its worth is long might that continue.  There are too many political correct apologists and activists of propagating all that`s wrong with our world.  As a non religious person I`m all for the free expression by those god fearing of one faith or another but those who are intent on taking us back to the middle ages where tolerance of difference did not exist  must not be able to have the tolerance and equal voice in this progressive world.  At some point the liberalism of the democratic state must decide when purveyors of hate must be silenced. With anti semitism once confined to private conversation now becoming an almost regular public occurrence the time must be approaching when that warning canary of religious and right and left wing extremism, call it Islamism, fascism and Marxism, must be confronted head on.     

So Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and thank you, my reader, for allowing me to occupy your time for just a few minutes today and previous days.

Friday, 22 December 2017

STATISTICS ON GENDER RELATED LEGAL MATTERS

It`s coming to that time of year when this blog and many others will go into hibernation for a couple of weeks.........but not just yet.  Recent parliamentary questions on two different subjects within the remit of the MOJ produced statistics for women and women-V-men that some readers might find interesting? disturbing? gratifying? or you name it.  Judge for yourselves below.





Thursday, 21 December 2017

PRAISE FOR LOCAL COURT REPORTING

I`ve complained often enough about the lack of local court reporting. Today`s an exception. Very full reports in two local media on proceedings at Ealing and Staines Magistrates` Courts where the latter had a District Judge(MC) presiding although the reporter failed to mention that. Both reports well worth a few minutes.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

SUCH MAGISTRATES SHOULD QUIT

BuzzFeed, a provocative on line agency, in association with the Magistrates Association this week published a lengthy account of the situation from both sides of the bench of unrepresented defendants in the magistrates courts.  Its detailed account could be summarised simply by two facts; defendants without lawyers are prone to be convicted in circumstances where legal representation might have got them off or their punishment mitigated and magistrates are only too aware of such failings and are too mealy mouthed to do anything about it.  I posted comprehensively on this subject 28th September 2015 where I proposed simple inexpensive measures to counteract the situation.  However with regard to the BuzzFeed quotations from magistrates, assuming their veracity, I have nothing but contempt for former colleagues who blithely admit to miscarriages of justice or unfair conclusions whilst they were in a position to mediate. Of course there will be the usual cry of magistrates are merely overseeing the process and must not enter the legal fray.   This cop out must be ended.  Magistrates and of course District Judges(MC) in an era where the power of the state is vastly superior to those of most defendants must now assume an inquisitorial role in the interests of justice being done and being seen to be done. My contacts with former colleagues convince me that the independence of the magistracy where it really matters, in the courtroom, is now compromised. JPs are trained to kowtow to the legal advisors who are assuming more influence than just offering legal advice.  This will require some magistrates with memory of times past to impart to their newer colleagues that almost forgotten spirit of radical thought and confidence to assist unrepresented defendants when such defendants exhibit blatant inability to assist themselves. 

Some of the magistrates quoted by BuzzFeed and some results eg 

"defendants without lawyers are being found guilty of crimes they did not commit and being sentenced too harshly."

"They’re not being fairly treated, through no fault of the court." 

"many magistrates said they were concerned that those without lawyers faced being found guilty of crimes they did not commit."

"I cannot recall any cases this year where non-represented persons defended themselves effectively.

"On at least two occasions recently I have sat in a trial that should never have come to court"

It amazes me that magistrates can sit through proceedings over which the chairman should have control and wash their hands over such abominations in the name of justice.  They should hang their heads in shame and offer their resignations if they fear HMCTS more than their own consciences.  Access BuzzFeed here



Monday, 18 December 2017

THE REALITY OF A DAY IN COURT

From time to time I have commented here on the day to day comings and goings at magistrates` courts; on delays, sentencing etc and all the scenarios that are part of the normal day`s sitting. I have also posted on the sometimes misleading headlines of local print media when reports are published. Indeed the rising influemces of social media are an ever increasing restraint on publishers` financial resources to enable old fashioned court reporting as it used to be.  With all that in mind it was interesting to read last week of Kent News` intention to do an in depth review of a day in a local courtroom.That report was published last week and makes sorry reading but conveys with more reality what is actually happening than the rosy perception projected by all the myriad statistics published by MOJ............read and digest.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

BENCH GOT IT WRONG

I suppose upon some reflection that I have commented here when it has seemed apposite on sentences being too weak rather than the reverse.  Today I find myself in the opposite corner. Curfew is a useful sentence because it is a deprivation of liberty and can be applied immediately upon a finding of guilt without the need to have a pre sentence report.  For those reasons it is essential that the bench takes on an inquisitorial role to ensure that the punishment fits the crime and the offender fits the punishment.  At least that is the way in which I personally approached such a disposal. For a bench to impose a curfew on a grandmother of previous good character who deprived the DHSS of £12,500, a relatively small amount for an offence  in such circumstances, is a disgrace. The report does not state under which section of the law she was charged.  If defence lawyer did not immediately appeal against sentence she ought to be ashamed as should the bench for the imposition of a sentence which was totally unsuitable in the circumstances.

Monday, 11 December 2017

POLICE MISCONDUCT//LATEST NEWS

Earlier this year on 18th October I posted on the change in regulation which had previously allowed police officers under misconduct investigation to resign and avoid such investigation.  Not surprisingly I was pleased. Well; today I`m not. In short this  new legislation in some circumstances allows officers to retire while under investigation.  The College of Policing appears not to have this new information on its website.

It would be interesting to know statistics of police chiefs charged with misconduct. 


Friday, 8 December 2017

FREE SPEECH MUST FOLLOW VOLTAIRE

FREEDOM OF SPEECH:- While lovers of liberty in all lands have urged the necessity of freedom of speech none put the case more pointedly than Voltaire when he wrote, I wholly disapprove of what you say and will defend to the death your right to say it.”  Perhaps that sentence exemplifies the difference between those of a libertarian bent from all others whether of the Left or the Right.  In 2009 The far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders was allowed entry to the UK after appealing successfully a ban imposed some months previously by the Home Office. His visit passed without incident.  Currently there is growing opposition to a proposed visit by Franklin Graham an American evangelist preacher on the grounds that he is likely to provoke a possible reaction from Muslims, gay people and others whom Graham has castigated in speeches in the USA.  The rise of a British Muslim population of 3 million has simultaneously led to increasing criticism of conservative Christianity and its adherents` proselytising. Cases of people wearing a cross around their necks have hit the headlines when their companies have ordered them to remove such items. For generations the Plymouth Brethren in England and the "Wee Frees" in Scotland have quietly lived their lives within their own strict rules and communities.  They too hold views not dissimilar from the aforesaid American and Dutchman. In short outside Northern Ireland religion was a private topic in this country until the immigration of hundreds of thousands of people from lands where religion was not only public but carried with it political inferences long dismissed here.  

The latest manifestation of perhaps anti Christian bias within the justice system was demonstrated by Lincoln Magistrates on 14 September when a Christian preacher was convicted of using threatening and discriminatory language whilst preaching in that city. That verdict was overturned on appeal at the crown court.  

I have posted three times in the last year or so on the topic of hate crime: 9th August 2016, 3rd April 2017 and most recently 22nd August this year.  It truly requires senior judiciary to halt this apparent upping of the ante as to what constitutes "hate".  Provided no incentive to violent action can be construed from actual words used, those opposed to the views and opinions of people like Geert Wilders, Franklin Graham and others whether of the Right or the Left, Christian or Muslim, gay or trans or whatever should make their arguments orally, in writing or through social media. Banning those who voice what some consider unsayable is a short slope to the unthinkable.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

SCHOOL CENSUS

For very many years the governments; Labour, Coalition and Tory have been less than expansive about the number of illegal immigrants in this country including those who arrived legally and overstayed. Indeed that evasiveness was no doubt a factor in the arguments on immigration prior to the Referendum.  The Right criticised the Left for its attempts to play down the problem and the Left accused the Right of little short of racism and bigotry.  There is one certainty and that is government still does not know the numbers of foreigners living  here.  From time to time we read in the media of those illegals having children in the UK and using that as an argument under Human Rights that their stay in this country be legitimised.  Since June 23rd last year various measures have been put in place to determine the nationalities of people who fall into certain groups which have contact with state authority.  All defendants in court must now state their nationality. Surprising no one the legal profession has been blowing its top into a so called breach of rights.  Now a similar uproar has occurred over the requirement of childrens` parents or guardians to name their child`s nationality as part of a schools` census.  IMHO with education defects being seen as a major problem from low industrial productivity to the limiting of lower social class children being able to climb out of poverty it seems perfectly reasonable to have facts on the nationality of such where eg lack of English as a native language in the home might be proving a detriment to inherent ability.    Of course the Left immediately cries racist or fascist in any situation where it thinks it will enhance its support amongst new arrivals.  To that extent a High Court Appeal against the census is underway by a group calling itself Campaign group Against Borders for Children.  I sincerely hope that appeal fails.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

JUSTICE OF WHICH TO BE PROUD

There is much to be said for the opinion that justice for all but the rich is no longer the certainty that it was a couple of generations ago. But then a little reported event happens along and all that can be said is that there is still a flickering flame within the system of which we should be proud.  "A Muslim suspected of involvement in "terrorism-related activity", who complained that Home Office movement constraints prevented him from visiting McDonald's and treating one of his children to a Happy Meal, has failed to persuade a High Court judge to relax restrictions." The report makes no mention of how his appeal was funded but I would hazard a guess that he was legally represented under legal aid.  I wonder where else he could have pursued his appeal on such grounds at state expense.  The brief report is available here.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

TOO MANY CHIEFS AND NOT ENOUGH INDIANS? (2)

On 25th July 2013, shortly before my previous host site was taken down, I commented on the numbers of serving police officers in England and Wales and the ratios of how the various ranks were proportioned.


4.86 constables/sergeant
3.26 sergeants/inspector
3.49 inspectors/chief inspector
2.2 chief inspectors/superintendent
2.24 superintendents/chief superintendent
1.82 chief superintendents/ACPO rank





On 8th August 2015 I posted as follows:-

Although I am cautious when reading of a latest form of crime statistics which appears to indicate that the trend is up, down or sideways there is more than a little fascination in the structure of those in blue employed (in reducing numbers) to keep the peace. According to current figures there are:-

1.68 chief superintendents for every ACPO ranked officer

9 inspectors and chief inspectors for every superintendent

3.3 sergeants for every inspector

5.2 constables for every sergeant

Figures for 2013 were:- 

4.86 constables for every sergeant
 

3.26 sergeants for every inspector
 

3.49 inspectors for every chief inspector
 

2.2 chief inspectors for every superintendent
 

2.24 superintendents for every chief superintendent
 

1.82 chief superintendents for every ACPO rank



I have no knowledge of the internal workings or management of large organisations but it does seem that the police are top heavy at the higher ranks of chief inspector and above. The army also seems to be similarly afflicted with around 200 brigadiers and  generals  for a force of around 100,000 reducing. 

Perhaps this is a historical anomaly and recruitment and promotion are trapped in a time warp? 


I followed those figures up on  22nd July 2016:-


Current figures are for 2015:-



Thus the ratio of ranks is now:-


5.17 constables/sergeant
3.36 sergeants/inspector
3.44 inspectors/chief inspector
2.02 chief inspectors/superintendent
2.43 superintendents/chief superintendent
1.68 chief superintendents/ACPO rank

Are there too many chiefs and too few indians? The numbers above indicate a constable:ACPO rank of 493.78. Perhaps somebody more knowledgeable than I can comment on the significance of these numbers?
                                                   
______________________________________________

Latest figures and ratios are:-


5.11 constables/sergeant
3.40 sergeants/inspector
3.43 inspectors/chief inspector
1.80 chief inspectors/superintendent
2.76 superintendents/chief superintendent
1.55 chief superintendents/chief officer


The current ration of constables to police chiefs is now 458.56/1.   I have no idea of the optimum staffing ratios for an organisation like the police.  But I do know that with various constabularies rationing their investigative procedures public interest in these numbers is bound to become more critical.
 

Friday, 1 December 2017

SUSPENDING CUSTODIAL SENTENCES

Today December 1st the prison population is 86,859. Prison capacity is 87,411. That equates to the fact that prisons are at 99.37% of their capacity. It probably is not unconnected to the fact that suspending custody seems to be a preferred option when at all justified and at times without that justification. My last sitting was in March 2015. According to the Sentencing Council "the percentage of cases sentenced to a wholly or partially suspended sentence decreased sharply, from 6.0% in 2013–14 to 0.5% in 2015–16. This decrease coincided with the abolition of suspended sentences in the Magistrates’ Court for offences committed on or after 1 September 2014".  I therefore have no first hand knowledge of the current situation. But I do read court reports.  Caught driving whilst disqualified this person was given custody suspended. Why he was not banned for an increased period but subject only to six penalty points only those present in court would know.  A registered sex offender who re-offended in what one assumes in a similar fashion was given a suspended sentence at a magistrates` court. Perhaps a legal eagle can explain this apparent contradiction vis a vis Sentencing Council as above. However my main thrust today is the apparent proliferation of suspended custodial sentences notwithstanding again the figures above. In 2016, 56,317 offenders had a suspended sentence order imposed, representing five per cent of offenders sentenced. In the twelve months to June this year 1,216,915 were sentenced at all courts of whom 88,091 were sentenced to immediate custody and 55,450 to custody suspended. Figures for 2010 were 1,334,083, 103,770 and 48,976 respectively.  There are those who shout loudly that far too many offenders are imprisoned.  This dovetails nicely with the severe restriction on prison capacity; a situation wholly owing to government policy.  The single irrefutable fact is that when offenders are incarcerated the public is protected from their further offending. That fact is debated by criminologists as being no antidote to further re-offending after release to the detriment of that very same public. 

I doubt there will not be similar controversy for decades to come.