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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

POLICE & LAW SOCIETY IN JOINT TIRADE AGAINST GOVERNMENT


It seems that the Law Society and senior police officials are getting together to spread the word that  falling numbers of crown court prosecutions are not some statistical accident or an indication that society is becoming more observant of the law. No; the numbers are indicative of fewer police to catch the miscreants in the first place and fewer police to process the cases for the CPS which is not itself directly criticised but as those in the legal world know only too well that organisation having been down sized by more than 10% in funds and  personnel in a decade is not without culpability.  See these press releases of the last few days from DevonLincolnshire, Northamptonshire,  North Wales, and Warwickshire. An obvious PR exercise against austerity but how much did it cost and by whom was it sanctioned?

Monday, 15 October 2018

THIS JUDGE IS A BULLY

I have opined in the past that Justices of the Peace seem to be more harshly treated for alleged transgressions than members of the professional judiciary. The recent case of a judge threatening to jail a 14 year old child if she cried in court whilst her mother was giving evidence is a case in point. HH has been criticised by the Court of Appeal. 

Such flagrant bullying of a minor should not be concluded with just a rap across the legal knuckles. He should be charged with misconduct. If it were a magistrate making those remarks s/he would be on the scrapheap in short order. Whether it is right that part time unpaid lay J.P.s should be dealt with on a different basis from full or part time professional judiciary is another matter to be debated at another time. 

Saturday, 13 October 2018

MAGISTRATES` MINIMUM AGE ON TWITTER POLL

I have recently had a dispute on Twitter on the worthiness of young magistrates cf their older counterparts. Whilst a fresh pair of eyes looking at a situation cannot be criticised, as a reason for having a minimum age of 18 it does not hold water. Barely out of school and with, according to latest science, a still not fully developed brain, it is unlikely that at such an age justice can be dispensed with maturity, wisdom and unfettered by personal considerations.  This argument can of course be developed for many more words. The representative of diversity protagonists seem to be virtually unassailable these days  but for those interested I have tweeted a poll on Twitter @bloggingJP on this topic. Whether you agree with me or not make your opinion public anonymously.  

Friday, 12 October 2018

MAGISTRACY BEING KILLED OFF

I am increasingly convinced that the selection process for magistrates is flawed. During my time on the bench it was common knowledge that there were perhaps 5%-10% of colleagues who were not intellectually or otherwise of a standard comparable with the job. Sanctions were rarely applied. Already this month four magistrates have been before the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.  Of these two have been removed from the magistracy owing to their failure to commit to the minimum number of sittings required and a third for drug possession. The fourth behaved in what only can be described in a crassly ignorant manner not befitting her position and was fortunate IMHO for not suffering the same fate as the other three. 

Altogether this year twelve Justices of the Peace have been removed from the magistracy the majority for failing to sit the minimum meagre requirement of a half day every fortnight; a schedule which does not allow the skills or knowledge necessary to be embodied in a lay magistrate sitting as a winger and is scandalously too little for a chairman to acquire the skills required.  These numbers are not unusual.  Every month JPs are thrown out for their unwillingness to devote the time required; a commitment that every appointments committee must surely emphasise.  So why does it happen?  It is a total waste of time and money to appoint and train somebody who fails at such a predictable hurdle.

Like so much else within the MOJ`s empire  the magistracy I believe is slowly being allowed to whither on the vine.  When it finally is killed off in its traditional form our legal system will be so much the poorer.  

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

COURT ESCAPES

During my time as an active JP I was not personally in a court from which a defendant had escaped although there were a couple of such episodes in an adjoining courtroom.  In my very early days there usually was a uniformed police officer in the remand court and others in the vicinity as witnesses to one case or another.  That level of security tailed off in the late nineties. Some docks were secure particularly in the remand courts but others presented no barrier to a determined miscreant who might have decided to abscond or do harm to those present. Recently two violent offenders breached what little there was of court security at Worcester Crown Court and Grimsby Crown Court respectively. I am a blogger and not a research statistician. There are no easily obtained statistics on the numbers of individuals who have attempted or actually achieved an escape from court.  The nearest document of significance is listed below.  It is not dated nor does it offer the aforementioned numbers; I would opine that that is deliberate obfuscation by the MOJ; a trait which has become the norm. When the numbers are hidden only the most dedicated will sniff them out.  So just another result from the decimation of police numbers initiated by an incompetent home secretary who is honing her position as the most incompetent prime minister in my lifetime. 

Not being sufficiently techie the link below should enable access of pdf. document.

The Management of Prisoners that present a risk of escape or violence ...



https://www.judiciary.uk/wp.../management_prisoners_risk_escape_violence.pdf

Annex 2 - Management of Prisoners who present a Risk of Escape or. Violence when attending Court - Application to Court for Improving Security. Arrangements .

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

SHAME ON HIM!

It is extremely risky and perhaps foolhardy to describe the actions of others in life and death situations when sitting safely at a keyboard.  I will take my chances. When people sign up for the armed forces or the fire or police service they know that they are likely to be in some physical danger at some time(s) in their career.  Those who are promoted to leadership roles must have indicated to their superiors that in addition to perhaps exhibiting rare skills of management or expertise that they have not forgotten the basics of the job; ie to run towards the danger whilst the rest of us run from it.  It seems that the acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police at the time of the Westminster terrorist attack had forgotten these basics.  SHAME ON HIM! 

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

LADY WINDEMERE AND LORD DARLINGTON HAD IT CORRECT

It seems that it is not only in the UK where police patrols on motorways are far less common than a decade ago; after having just returned from travelling on autoroutes in Normandy and Brittany the French police appear to be equally absent. Although road casualties in France are far higher than here I felt that the French hare brained, must get there quicker than you attitude has diminished. Indeed I felt confident crossing a road by a zebra crossing that traffic would stop.......and it did. Which brings me to yesterday`s announcement from the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire that he is giving additional discretionary powers to the county`s PCSOs.  Many years ago I posted on creeping practices across many professions of hailing the extra help that "assistants" would give to principals.  The argument went that the employment of such people at relatively low wages would free up time for their senior professionals and would thus be cost effective.  Such briefings always emphasised that the role of the assistants would not impinge that of their professionally qualified superiors. Thus were born CPS prosecuting assistants, teaching assistants, dental assistants, optical assistants, nursing assistants and many others including police community support officers.  Of course it is now acknowledged from government to nursery that what the military term "mission creep" has truly engulfed us when these assistants take on the roles previously withheld from them and for which latterly pseudo qualifications have been required.  And all this is for the single purpose of saving money whatever the cost to society in the longer term. 

Most generally law abiding citizens come into contact with police only for traffic matters.  Police constables having survived intensive scrutiny to be accepted, with their extensive training in the classroom and on the job learn how to handle the sensitive interface between them and the public; whether a firm warning is sufficient right up to the powers of arrest.  My experience in practice and whilst on the bench is that PCSOs lack such judgement.  That`s not surprising considering the low level of academic requirement and a starting salary of £19,500 maximum.  Now these assistant police officers by any other name are being given enhanced powers by a constabulary which Her Majesty`s Inspector of Constabulary concluded was below the "must do better" level of a school report card. 

This is the time we live in when a former home secretary applying the rules of austerity recently agreed with the then 2018 home secretary Amber Rudd that rising crime bears no relationship to the decimation in the numbers of police officers and that government funding had increased.    

Never was the phrase "government that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing" more applicable.........with apologies to Oscar Wilde.

Monday, 24 September 2018

J.P. EN VACANCES EN NORMANDIE

I have a great liking for calvados so for the next week or so I will be in my element at the home of all drinks apple; no doubt I will also sample un demi de cidre in Normandy over the next week or so. 

Thursday, 20 September 2018

PARADOX OF PERSONALITY OF HMCTS TOADS


On 14th June I posted on the MOJ`s search for a "national leadership magistrate". Since then all but one regional leadership toads have been appointed. 


If there are any doubters that the end of the magistracy as it has been known for over 600 years is on the horizon they should re-examine the political history of the organisation and its ancillary duties over the last twenty years.  I made my first of many comments on the demise of an independent magistracy almost as soon as I began blogging as Justice of the Peace in 2009 (at a now defunct site). This total potential control by HMCTS surely points to the eventual wiping out of the Magistrates Association as a point of influence. But what kind of person signs up to be a government lackey?  I can only assert that those with the attributes to be politicians or regional leadership magistrates are the very people whose personalities indicate that they should not actually do those jobs. I term this the paradox of personality.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

DON`T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD

It is becoming increasingly irrefutable that the disastrous cuts in police numbers instigated when she was home secretary by arguably the worst prime minister in modern times are resulting in a crime wave of horrendous proportions where daily killings in London are common place and drug dealers are extending their empires to every town and village in the country.  In the light of such activity one would have thought that police up and down the country would maximise their limited resources for public protection and prevention of breaches of the peace. One would have thought wrongly at least in the case of the thin blue line attempting to patrol the county of Leicester`s many streets and byways. This is the constabulary which in 2015 announced with the bravado of a  teenage Lothario who had made his first conquest that in future investigations of alleged burglary it would investigate only those addresses with even numbers. Not satisfied with the derision that that decision heaped upon those officers at the sharp end those responsible for allocating what funds are available for officers` training have now used their collective wisdom to offer banter training to reduce workplace tensions when misunderstood language might be the cause of perceived offence.  

The only offence I can perceive is to the common sense of police officers and to the tax payers of Leicester. That wonderful sixties blues band The Animals had it just right; "Don`t let me be misunderstood". 

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

WHAT IS DIVERSITY?

I`m a collector or perhaps hoarder is a more accurate description the result being that I never have enough space to put away all my bits and pieces. It was whilst I was searching this morning for some documents from the 1990s that I stumbled across the learning log supplied when I attended the weekend induction course to the magistracy. The third entry written on December 31st at the end of my first year on the bench describes my thoughts and I copy it word for word below.

“Legally two cases stand out. The first at the beginning of the year; a case of two black defendants being accused of causing harassment, alarm and distress to two police officers with three other officers as witnesses. We decided there was no case to answer. This was my first trial. It was a rude awakening to how the police can operate against “short tempered” innocent blacks and how the rules governing the threat to use CS gas were disregarded. I wonder if the defendants considered that a white, middle class middle aged bench believed their story to the exclusion of the police evidence and whether it was a topic amongst their friends or family that might indicate that the courts were not biased against them”.


The above sitting was prior to the murder of Stephen Lawrence. 

Thursday, 13 September 2018

MORE FROM THE MOUTHPIECES AT THE MOJ

Still not fully recovered from the wee germ but it so happens there have been some recent  government press releases which might be of interest. Results of fully-video hearings pilot published.    Still this regime will not be deflected from the path of instant distance justice whatever the cost in human emotion. Pilots will inevitably be deemed as successful and the English language is tortured to death to excuse any unwanted results. Judicial Diversity Statistics 2018 will show that the magistracy is the most diverse of all judicial levels but IMHO we are being hanged on this term when quality and suitability should be the only criteria.  Judicial office holders must be respected for their ability to do the job not fulfil a quota. Jail time to double for assaulting an emergency worker  It would seem that in order for the increased penalties to be available such matters will have to go to crown court as the lower courts` powers are limited to six months custody for a single offence.  According to the release, "Attacking a person serving the public is already an aggravating factor in sentencing guidelines but this Bill will put that position on a statutory basis for emergency workers".  I thought the general idea is to simplify the law not increase its complexity but then I`m just a lowly ill informed retired JP.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

FORGIVE THE GAP

Recovering from a viral infection. Normal service will, I hope, be resumed ASAP

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

J.P.s OUTSPOKEN BUT A WASTE OF TIME

It has been my opinion for over a decade that the concept of local justice is local in name only and that the function of Justices of the Peace will be but a historical footnote by the middle of the next decade. Magistrates are not well organised as a lobby group.  The Magistrates Association has faded from prominence and influence to be replaced by national bench chairmen in a so called forum under the complete control of the executive.  To add to the situation and to seek more control the MOJ in June advertised for a National Leadership Magistrate.  No announcement has yet been made if that position has been filled. Full details can be found on my post of 14th June. With all that in mind I was impressed to read in the Guardian that Kent magistrates have made their own direct protest at the changes anticipated which are just around the corner. Their arguments are cogent but I fear they are fighting a losing battle.  The MOJ will not make substantive changes in its intentions to further remove from our courts the essentials of a level playing field where the guilty are punished and with an equality of arms the innocent are  set free.

Monday, 3 September 2018

TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE

It`s not often that a news event slots into so many aspects of my life and my hobby as a blogger.  I was retired from the magistracy having reached the biblical three scores years and ten, I have recently had to renew my driving license and in a previous life I was an eyecare professional.  The news event is that police are to be given powers to immediately revoke the driving license of somebody who fails a police initiated roadside "eye test".  A first impression might be that this is a worthwhile new activity for police to be involved in but I question that.  The current requirement to ascertain if an applicant for a driving license can see properly is for him/her to read a number plate on a vehicle at 20M in normal daylight conditions.   Other requirements do not require anything other than a driver`s declaration.  Professional organisations associated with eyecare, its practice and its practitioners have for many decades pleaded with government to insist that license applicants be subjected to a comprehensive eye examination and issued with a certificate of competence on meeting the required standard before a practical driving test is taken.  Currently as far as I am aware that requirement at a minimum is still before government for those like me who must renew their license every three years.  As if police are under employed another task is handed to them.  But they are not the people who should be doing this; there are optometrists on every high street  fully equipped academically, professionally and legally to undertake this work.   By by- passing this route it is another example of this government`s choosing the cheapest easy way out to meet what is perceived a public demand. i.e. it is another public relations gimmick by the worst and arguably most incompetent cabinet minister in my lifetime......Chris Grayling; he who removed books from prisoners, he who imposed court charges which were rescinded as soon as he left office, he who has buggered up all he touches as Transport Minister.  So many commentators more knowledgeable than I have said it: Oh for Her Majesty`s  Opposition that was worthy of the name to offer us an alternative to the current lot who indeed could not have a wild party in a brewery.  

Thursday, 30 August 2018

A LAW UNTO THEMSELVES

I have remarked previously that when Justices of the Peace step out of what the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office  considers the appropriate judicial approach a heavier hand is applied than seems to be the case for the rest of the judiciary.  Perhaps it expects more from those who volunteer their services, perhaps they are easier to replace and so individually have less value than their seniors, perhaps being unable to alter their lifestyle by the implicit threat for the most dire offences they are sanctioned more often, perhaps as a corollary professional judges are less likely to lose their position owing to the JCIO being mindful that removal would affect a judge`s income and be likely to hinder future employment prospects.  With those thoughts in mind I read of the case of HH Judge Karen Holt who accessed case files in a matter where her daughter was a witness. It is impossible to believe that had a magistrate done something remotely similar s/he would not have been removed from the magistracy. But one must remember that the JCIO is a law unto itself. 






**************

Generally speaking most upright law abiding citizens would think that coming to the defence of a woman who was being attacked by a man was a heroic action deserving praise even if in so doing a single punch felled the attacker.  In Jersey apparently the opposite is true; at least in this case. Whilst we know little of the circumstances except the essentials it does seem rather odd but then the Channel Islands are literally a law unto themselves.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

LIVE TV WILL ALLOW JUSTICE TO BE SEEN AND HEARD TO BE DONE

For anybody interested in the law and the legal system last week`s ITV programme on the Court of Appeal was possibly the most interesting and entertaining programme on the subject for many a year.  For a very long time I have been an advocate of live streaming of court proceedings with, of course, the caveat that we don`t lose sight of "justice" for all parties by the nature of the editing and directing which would be inevitable.  Indeed a five minute delay when broadcasting live would be essential.  However I sense that there is much opposition to the very idea of "court TV".  Opposing opinion strikes me as very similar to that existing when the live televising of parliament was mooted in 1968.  The question to arise is not if to have TV coverage of courts but which level of court should be the first to be broadcast.  An argument that a dedicated TV channel be devoted to the topic might find favour with current media outlets being amongst the obvious contenders for such a franchise. With the Supreme Court having been the first (Scottish courts excepted) to allow the cameras within its dusty walls and last week`s programme as precedents I would opine that in keeping with the trend, cases at the High Court would follow.  Under the strict direction of senior judiciary justice would be seen to be done by the public which is being served.  On the other hand if magistrates` courts proceedings were televised it might have more appeal and interest in an area where criminal activity at all levels  could be related to by viewers. It might also act as a deterrent and public humiliation for potential offenders just as the stocks did so many years ago. 

One thing can be predicted with absolute certainty; the angst within the legal fraternity re live TV from courts will be seen in a couple of decades from now as parliamentary broadcasting was amongst politicians years ago.  And that was based, despite the hot air of political windbags, on efforts to preserve secrecy of the goings on in a clublike atmosphere.  Just as parliament exists for the functioning of our democracy and not its players so justice in the form of our courts exists similarly.   Let it be seen and heard to be done. 

Monday, 27 August 2018

LOCAL JUSTICE BY THE FISHER FOLK JPs OF HUMBERSIDE

The MOJ in its confusion about what constitutes local justice insists that that concept still exists when reality indicates the contrary.  National guidelines on sentences and magistrates` licensed to sit at any court in England and Wales..........when I was appointed I was restricted to my local court(s) show that in practice a national system of courts is in operation.  An interesting article in Grimsby Live purports to show that the region`s courts are more "jail happy" than the national average.  Of course this is a big boost for those who repeatedly claim that the lower court should no longer have custodial sentencing powers. Perhaps the good burghers of Humberside have their own sense of priorities in dealing with offenders whilst still being guided by the Sentencing Guidelines but refusing to be constrained by them.   In that event no doubt the Justices Clerk for the region will be told by his/her bosses to sort out those fisher folk and their old ideas of justice and retribution and allow the tenets of the metropolitan nanny state to operate unfettered.  

Friday, 24 August 2018

THE MYOPIA OF THE MAGISTRATES ASSOCIATION



Letters: Magistrates don't need to be ex-criminals to understand people on trial



SIR – According to the 2011 census, 87 per cent of the population were white or white British. That means that 13 per cent were not.
Why, then, is John Bache, Chairman of the Magistrates Association, worried that only 12% of JPs are black and ethnic minority? This seems reasonable to me, bearing in mind that those appointed in the last century would have been proportionately more white.
Until I retired as a magistrate last year, most criminals were male, yet half of the bench were women. It is fair in general terms to argue that magistrates should reflect the society which they serve, but that does not mean that an individual defendant should expect a bench reflecting his or her characteristics, particularly if they are of a criminal tendency.
Michael Staples JP
Seaford, East Sussex


SIR – Mr Bache is trying too hard to be politically correct by seeking to recruit more former offenders as magistrates to “make those accused of crimes feel less alienated by the justice system”. 
It is far more important that the justice system retains the confidence of the victims of crime and the law-abiding majority, as well as criminals, by having magistrates of obvious integrity.
Ronnie Bradford
Vienna, Austria


SIR – Your report includes the phrase “hiring more magistrates”. Magistrates are not hired but appointed, as unpaid volunteers. That needs to be borne in mind in any discussion of the matter.
As to the need for diversity, the principal requirement is awareness of the circumstances of those who appear in court. You need not have financial problems to judge poor people, or be black to judge black people.
Experience like that gained in Citizens’ Advice, seeing people of every kind of background, can provide the necessary qualification.
Katie Watson
Petworth, West Sussex


SIR – Sitting as a deputy stipendiary magistrate, I did not have to be a former thief to know the difference between a mother stealing food for her hungry child and a man stealing watches for profit.
Peter Thompson
Sutton, Surrey


SIR – Mr Bache suggests that recruiting magistrates with criminal records would make those accused of crimes feel less alienated by the justice system. I thought that one aspect of the justice system was just that – to make criminals feel alienated from the norms of civilised society.
David Salter
Kew, Surrey


SIR – It is suggested that former criminals should be magistrates, and only gay actors should play gay characters. What next – MPs that have lived and worked in the real world before representing us mere mortals?
David Dorey

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

DIVERSITY; THE "D" WORD

All those with connections to the concept of justice as a department of state will know that magistrates are rather thin on the ground and on the bench. There were 30K when I was appointed and about 16K now.  The idea of "diversity" within the magistracy has been a running sore throughout the last twenty years.  Having never been on an appointments committee the activities of which are secret I have no first hand knowledge of just how far such committees consider lowering the requirements when faced with a dearth of applicants from ethnic minorities but under an obligation to ensure that their court`s ratio of such individuals meets government`s required levels.  What I do know with absolute certainty is that at my own court there were a  very few black colleagues whom everyone from the Deputy Justice Clerk downwards knew had been appointed because of that aforesaid requirement. 

There has been a perennial complaint that the magistracy is too white, too old and too middle class.  To those criticisms it used to be added; too male. Not any more; over half of JPs are female. Latest statistics show that  more than half of magistrates were female (55%),12% of magistrates declared themselves as BAME.  The system has always allowed capable applicants with historical minor offences in their background to be appointed; eg a previous conviction of dangerous driving or assault.  But the supposed mouthpiece for magistrates, the Magistrates Association, which nowadays is not representative of its members except that they subscribe for its magazine is as usual pushing the diversity issue once more as if its credibility depends upon it.  I suppose it does because it increasingly just echoes government wishes on matters affecting the lower court. The latest to join this club is chairman John Bache. He bemoans the age profile of magistrates. It is a no brainer that only those with sufficient income can offer the required unpaid time to join the bench.  That usually increases with age. It is only by not having to pay magistrates a salary that prevents a wholly professional judiciary taking over completely the magistrates courts` system.  In order to encourage recruitment he is actively seeking candidates with criminal convictions.  He declares this as another way to increase "diversity".  This D word seems to be the watchword for so much rubbish emanating from government departments and those who criticise are immediately targeted as racist.  Quota systems, for this is what diversity is, demean those who constitute the diversity target. Doubt is inevitably placed in their inherent aptitude for the job. Indeed I know that it has made some feel that they almost have had to prove their abilities to their peers.  That is a terrible price to pay.  And of course there is the actual meaning of diversity.  Where does it stop? the categories are almost endless. 

When I applied there was a place on the form to fill in; "which political party did you vote for when you last voted at a general election?"  I returned the form with that question unanswered. It was returned shortly after with a covering letter stating that if I did not answer that question my application would be immediately rejected. I answered the question.  That question has long since disappeared from the application form.  I doubt that questions on race and/or religion will be on the application form  20 years from now. Indeed I doubt that magistrates will be part of the court function in 20 years from now. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

PROPAGANDA OF TV FLY ON THE WALL JUSTICE

The area where most decent law abiding citizens come into contact with police is when driving.  Owing to the discretion allowed the police their attitude in any individual case could leave a life long impression.  Nowhere is this discretion more widely operated than when a minor infringement of road traffic laws has been observed. Breaking lower level speed limits is one such infringement.  On motorways there is no excuse for breaking the 70MPH limit except in very exceptional circumstances eg to avoid a collision. And especially when many  new cars have cruise control or adaptive cruise control which being radar operated brakes automatically when approaching too close to the vehicle in front. But in towns and built up areas concentration on other traffic factors can lead to a momentary breaking of a 20MPH, 30MPH or 40MPH limit.  For police to seriously consider that 1MPH over those limits warrants the issue of a ticket and 3 penalty points is a further signal that the police in this country are setting their own agenda. Increasingly they are losing the goodwill of the public they serve by failing in their primary purpose of preventing breaches of the peace and the investigation of lower levels of real criminal activity. Of course police forces have been decimated by reductions in funding and the personnel required.  We can thank Theresa May for that although she would like us to forget that she was six years home secretary and authorised the cuts in resources.  Nevertheless during my last motorway journey last weekend of 200 miles  I did not observe a single police motorway patrol; a place where they would have been of more use than in many towns. Or perhaps they keep their efforts live for reality TV programmes where many parts of the justice system seem to be popping up with unfailing regularity. Detectives in live action and the CPS now have fly on the wall TV time. I suppose the relatively low costs per hour to the TV companies make such programmes worthwhile and for the forces of law and order such propaganda is an effort to whitewash their inefficiencies and reducing lack of public confidence. 

Monday, 20 August 2018

A JUSTICE SYSTEM EMASCULATED

Every Justice Secretary since I was appointed [and probably prior to that] has issued words of thunder through the weasels in the MOJ press office that something is going to be done about knife crime. Indeed I have posted here more than once on this.  It would not be inaccurate to suggest that such pronouncements are filed in the in box for every new occupant of the top seat at Petty France.I await David Gauke`s efforts. Meantime the latest Guideline has come into force.

It is common knowledge that knife crime this year in London has reached record levels. It is therefore not irrational to conclude that current practices are not having the required effect in protecting the public and victims who are often young black men as are many of the offenders. Any sensible law makers would seek reasons for the situation and offer sensible evidence based solutions. But any observers offering such a common sense approach risk being accused of political correctness if race based initiatives are amongst the mix of those possible solutions. 

This blogger along with most involved in our justice system despairs about what has happened to and within that justice system since 2010.  Police who have been deprived the resources to do what the founder of modern policing stated to be the aim of his "bobbies" although later ascribed  to Richard Mayne at the Metropolitan Police Training School at Hendon and the source of reference to all constables in the Instruction Book. The first passage in that book which they had to learn and recite word-perfect was the “Primary Objects”.This was written in 1829 by said Richard Mayne one of the first two Justices of the Peace (later in 1839 referred to as Commissioners) appointed in charge of the Metropolitan Police Force and published in Police Orders. The Primary Objects: are as follows:
“The primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime: the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To these ends all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquillity, and the absence of crime, will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful and whether the objects for which the police were appointed have been attained.”   
 And the end point of criminality is prison where today Birmingham jail has been taken over by the state after the private sector has been shown to be possibly criminally incompetent in its management. Between police and prison, courts and probation service have been similarly emasculated.  I am left feeling that this is akin to the 1997 scenario of a tired and useless John Major government about to be driven out of office and rightly so except that in the wings is a group of antisemitic Marxists licking their lips at the ruin they will bring to the nation to realise their lifelong dreams.  This scenario leads to ever increasing cries for "something to be done" and that inescapably leads to the populists in our midst offering simple get out of jail free cards. And to complete the metaphor, monopoly in all its dire forms results. Another term for that in this context is authoritarianism. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

IS APPEAL TO A HIGHER COURT A LOTTERY OR SUPERIOR JURISPRUDENCE?

The Court of Appeal has yesterday reinstated Dr Bawa-Garba to the medical register. Readers will be knowledgeable of the details. I do not intend to discuss the rights and the wrongs of the final decision or the ramifications for the NHS.  My point is to understand the differences between that court and the Supreme Court from a lay person`s point of view. The major difference is  that the latter is administered under a chief executive and is the highest court in the land. Yesterday`s result I suppose could yet be taken to the Supreme Court.  The brains on those courts are presumably the highest of the applicants who applied. From the lower court some will find their way to that Supreme Court.  Are we to consider that intellectually and legally minded there is a superiority of one over the other?  Or is it that there are two courts sitting consecutively and the verdict of the second supersedes the first? Is a judge in the Court of Appeal verdict which was eventually overturned who differed from his colleagues and in effect brought in the same result as the Supreme Court would do in the future appeal to be considered a more suitable contender for that court than the colleagues whose verdict was overturned?  In a similar argument would it not be prudent for two juries to sit on the most serious cases so that two verdicts of guilty are required for conviction?   In other words with the current system of appeal is it as much a lottery as superior jurisprudence?


Monday, 13 August 2018

JCIO; A MODERN WITCH HUNT

THE JUDICIAL CONDUCT INVESTIGATIONS OFFICE is the star chamber where judicial office holders are held to account.  Its machinations are secret.  Investigations are conducted far from the public eye.  In that respect itself one must suspect the integrity and/or fairness of its deliberations.  Secrecy in government departments is guaranteed to raise questions but I cannot recollect any serious journalistic inquiry or reference to this process little known outside the legal fraternity.

Today it has published its latest findings...........copied below.


The very wording, "remarks........which suggested that she holds prejudices..........." is enough to consider that this accusation was perhaps on less than solid ground.  The fact of the accused`s resignation does not detract from that.  The mental stress of such proceedings would be more than enough to break the resolve of even the strongest personality.  The expense of defending such a charge is enormous. Magistrates have no group defence body. Of course we know nothing of the actual case except the result.  This is not justice.  It could very easily be a modern witch hunt.

Friday, 10 August 2018

MORE BLAH FROM THE MOJ

Criminals with drug, alcohol and mental health problems could avoid jail after ministers branded short prison sentences “ineffective”.
David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, wants “vulnerable” offenders to be given community orders requiring them to undertake treatment instead of going to jail.
But the scheme, being piloted in several regions, risks a backlash from victim groups amid fears that criminals could play the system to avoid prison.
Under the initiative, psychologists present in court assess offenders who could be eligible for a community order. Local panels of justice and health officials will provide information to magistrates and judges so they can determine the appropriate outcome.
The Ministry of Justice said the measures have already resulted in more Community Sentence Treatment Requirements (CSTRs) being issued. Government research has found less re-offending among those who undergo treatment.  In a speech today Mr Gauke will say: “We are all clear that we need to do more to support vulnerable offenders in the community… We need to do more to raise awareness and increase confidence in treatment requirements and I look forward to exploring how these sites progress.”  Since the pilot sites went live in Birmingham, Plymouth, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Sefton on Merseyside, initial figures suggest that more than 400 CSTRs have been issued. 
District Judge Richard Clancy, lead judge at the Complex Case Court in Merseyside, which is part of the Sefton pilot scheme, said: “To have a trial scheme where the court has on-site psychologists capable of testing suitability of a defendant for a mental health treatment requirement, so that such a community order can be made by the judge on the same day without need for adjournment, is a remarkable and innovative move which I fully support.”
Community sentences can include offenders being required to carry out unpaid work as well as attending centres for their addictions or health issues.

The above is copied from The Telegraph.  Over the last two decades governments of both colours have been responsible for closing dozens of mental hospitals and refuges.  Indeed the building closest to my house about three miles away founded in 1851 as an asylum  and later was a NHS  psychiatric hospital was closed in 1993 as were so many others similar. It is now a very desirable address where Premier League players are known to have flats. Judges and magistrates have been aware for many years that the provision for the 70% of offenders who have addiction problems; drugs and/or alcohol is very thin on the ground.  The numbers of professionals available to treat such offenders is nowhere near enough to offer a prompt effective route to abstinence.  The only sensible way forward is to remove the court journey to that of a medical pathway for such offenders. That means that drug taking [not dealing] must be de-criminalised.  Secure facilities must be constructed where appropriate offenders are forcibly incarcerated.  In previous posts I have termed these places as "workhouses for the 21st century" where they are released when it is considered they are clean and no longer a threat to a peaceful society. Some may comment that this  is draconian.  I don`t disagree but where we are now and where this Justice Secretary wants to go are just not possible even with all the press releases and their blah blah blah.  

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

GOOD GOVERNANCE NOT

A great debate is taking place in the USA over the separation of powers; a theme throughout the constitution which is the basis of that country`s democracy and a matter of concern with the current POTUS tending to disparage Congress and Justice Dept.  We have no written constitution as many puffed up parliamentary representatives are not tired of explaining.  This is all very well except that there is no defined path for true democrats to follow when the system seems to be near breaking point.  Those same representatives make it up as they go along; hence the debacle of the Brexit Shambles. Nearer to home and as a topic for a blog which usually focuses on matters legal, paedophilia and its perpetrators are rarely out of the headlines. We have come a very long way in the last twenty years in recognising this heinous lifestyle whether initiated by genetic or environmental disorders as a scourge in our society.  As in all criminal matters the police must investigate, the CPS must charge, the court must deliver verdict and the judge must sentence.  If the chain is broken anywhere along its length justice will not be done or seen to be done. Last year Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection, said that paedophiles who view indecent images should not be charged and taken to court unless they pose a physical threat to children.  He added that low level offenders should simply be placed on the sex offenders register and given counselling and rehabilitation instead. A few days ago the Solicitor General indicated that he would make provision for appealing against sentences for paedophiles which are considered too lenient. 

This complete incongruity between police and courts is more of a tragedy than a farce. But it certainly does the profile of what constitutes good governance no favours.   

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Monday, 6 August 2018

NO END IN SIGHT FOR ADDICTS AND THE DESTRUCTIVE JUSTICE SYSTEM

"Sentencing Collins to eight weeks in custody, bench chairman Graham Commons said that he felt there was a gap in the criminal system to deal with people like him.
He told him: “We don’t normally get customers as cooperative as you, so thank you for being cooperative.

“All I can say is when you’re in custody please try and get the help that you’re asking for.”

The above is copied from the Huddersfield Daily Examiner.  The sentiments of the bench chairman are exactly in line with my thoughts formed many years ago on drug addiction. I have commented similarly many times here but rarely has the current situation been more clearly expressed and reported within a magistrates court. Only by the combined efforts of a courageous Home Secretary, a Justice Secretary who actually has balls and a Health Secretary with no leadership ambitions defying his civil servants and perhaps his boss will anything like the correction action be taken. Needless to tell, the current destructive process for addicts going through the justice system will continue indefinitely.  

Friday, 3 August 2018

A LINCOLNSHIRE DRIVER//NOT A LINCOLNSHIRE POACHER


More than a decade ago national sentencing guidelines were introduced to avoid or minimise sentencing by postcode.  This innovation in hindsight can be marked as the beginning of the end of what had euphemistically been termed "local justice". We have come a long way since then.  Magistrates are now accorded the privilege? of being qualified to sit in any local justice area in England and Wales when previously they were limited to their "home" court.  Whether one agrees or not this is the situation.  

A lawyer addressing magistrates in Boston Magistrates Court pleaded for his drink driving client to have a reduced ban cf similar miscreant in London who could avail himself of the myriad transport choices in that city cf rural Lincolnshire. I must admit that that is the first time I have heard of mitigation along these lines.  Imagine if courts could act retrospectively if the mood chose them.  There could be special reasons based on the supposed historic inbreeding in East Anglia, they could designate fines in bushels utilising the high number of those employed in farming,  two thirds in the county voted to Leave EU so learning French could be a part of community service.  

I suppose the lawyer in question was just trying to do best by his client.  I wonder what his approach would have been faced with mitigating a Lincolnshire poacher? 

Monday, 30 July 2018

A STAR CHAMBER FOR TODAY//THE JCIO

Last week yet another magistrate was castigated by the star chamber AKA the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.  The statement is copied below.


Last week a serving magistrate in Wales had what appears to be self serving portrait of himself and his recreational interests published in Barry and District News

Perhaps somebody can explain why this person should not be appearing before the JCIO?


Friday, 27 July 2018

MAGISTRATES ASSOCIATION AND FUNNY PROBATION MONEY

The current (for how much longer) Justice Secretary today outlines the future vision he has for probation. The underlying theme of his statement is that one of his predecessors, the notorious Chris Grayling, f***** up the whole process of privatisation of much of what we term the probation service.  What is not widely known is that during this upheaval the Magistrates Association accepted money from some of the newly created probation companies.  Not now being a member of said association I have no knowledge of the financial machinations within that organisation. However at that time I posted on the story.  It can be read here

Thursday, 26 July 2018

LATEST CONVICTION RATES


B.A. ABSOLVED OF RESPONSIBILITY FOR 12 DRUNKS HARASSMENT OF PASSENGER

I doubt there are many reading this who have not felt harassment, alarm or distress at the behaviour of fellow travellers when a passenger on an international flight. If even one fellow passenger behaves in such a manner there is just no escape.  Many reports have been filed of pilots diverting to the nearest airport in order that such passengers can be removed from the plane and taken into custody by local law enforcement.  Of course such a diversion will inevitably prove costly for the airline and would be considered only when the captain followed certain protocols.  I have no knowledge of these but a revealing report in the Express a couple of months ago goes a long way to explain procedures to be followed.  It was therefore a surprise for me when I read today of a passenger`s failed attempt to obtain compensation from British Airways for a truly unhappy and alarming flight to Las Vegas when he was harassed by twelve football fans during said flight. It would appear that the flight crew did not follow the protocols in such a situation.  The pilot had many opportunities to divert  from Gander in Ireland, Halifax Nova Scotia and many airports in continental USA.  I hope the claimant who obviously had the means to go to law appeals this appalling decision made by Judge Paul Brooks at Central London County Court.  

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

FLIES, WHISKY, SQUIRRELS & J.P.s` FREEDOM OF SPEECH


               A couple of days ago I was sitting comfortably at my desk top typing away merrily at a speed which allowed me every so often to take my evening dose of muscle relaxant without spilling a drop until unnoticed by me a fly had decided it could no longer resist the smell of pure malt and decided to commit hari kari in a manner that even Rob Roy or Braveheart would have appreciated. Spooning away the now inebriated six legged intruder I took another sip safe in the knowledge that no bacteria could survive the 47% proof alcohol and continued putting the string of words within my cortex into a meaningful order before fingers once again tapped keys. A few minutes later and would you believe the thousand eyed identical cousin of the winged invader had also decided to see if immersion in a fine Scotch malt was worth dying for. So for all makers of fly traps I have a tip……bait them with your favourite tipple from the glens.The imbibing was an absolute necessity after coming upon two stories which for me became very personal indeed. 

Beatrix Potter in 1903 little realised that a charming story of a red squirrel would in its own sweet way lead to the conviction of a man at Burton Magistrates` Court under the Animal Welfare Act of 2006; another of these pieces of useless legislation that passed without a whimper through the bowels of a rotten parliament to be excreted unsuspectingly in the path of many right minded citizens going about their everyday duties of doing the best for themselves, their families and utilising the little piece of England that most would know as their garden. The original Squirrel Nutkin was Sciurus vulgaris a red squirrel. A native of this island it lives in coniferous woodland and survives on a diet of nuts and seeds. Around the time of the publication of Squirrel Nutkin the story goes that a pair of grey squirrels Sciurus carolinensis was introduced to Britain and has led to a current population of about two and a half million. Unlike the red which is endangered and is now confined to very few areas in Northern England and Scotland the grey is a wonderful example of Darwinism at its best. It is widespread everywhere and is as much a pest to suburban environments as its cousin the rat. Until 2006 like many wild creatures its welfare was covered by the Wild Mammals [Protection]Act 1986 which protects all wild mammals from cruelty. At its core the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 has in its first line the following:-(1) In this Act, except subsections (4) and (5), “animal” means a vertebrate other than man.
Bit of a catch all is that clause. Break a mouse`s back with a trap and one is caught. 



Magistrates must apply the law which in my interpretation means that if that law is broken the offender is guilty…no doubts, no ifs, no buts……s/he is guilty but if a bench takes a view that the charge need not have been brought or is relying on the letter rather than the spirit of the law there are disposals which can indicate this; an absolute or conditional discharge can be applied and the costs requested can be discounted to zero if thought appropriate. In 2010 Burton Magistrates in my opinion took a somewhat perverse view when Raymond Elliot admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a grey squirrel by trapping and drowning it. He was given a six month conditional discharge but ordered to pay £1,547 prosecution costs. Grey squirrels are pests. I have had them ruin plants in my garden, steal food left out for birds, eat birds` eggs, invade my loft causing a nasty mess and via a chimney come into my house causing havoc. I have used traps and a high powered air gun to rid myself of them and I continue doing so. This law is itself a trap. It is an example of all that was on the surface touchy feely about Blair and New Labour but red in tooth and claw underneath. So if this legislation is used to bully any reader here for exterminating a mammal which is called vermin by any other name think thoroughly before pleading guilty because an Act which has as its first line quoted above makes us all guilty.And to the second matter this week in which I had a personal connection being a bench chairman at the time; the fellow Justice of the Peace who was forced to apologise by senior judges for saying in court to an immigrant that “he had abused our hospitalitywas only saying what many of my colleagues and I have said in various contexts in a variety of formats to those from abroad who have appeared consistently before us for usually common offences of no insurance, shoplifting, affray etc etc. We are supposed to be local people with local knowledge dispensing local justice but that is no longer the case. But we certainly are not mouthpieces for high level individuals who usually describe shovels as long handled implements with a metal bit at the end for digging the earth. The details of the incident were not  disclosed whether to protect the J.P. or to protect the grand members of the higher judiciary who with their high handedness once again were seen to be reverting to form of being above rather than part of society.



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