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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.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, 31 January 2019
Monday, 28 January 2019
Only last week the figures of homicides in England and Wales showed that there had been an increase of 14% in 2018 over the previous year. In tandem with that announcement was the publication of figures that noted what many have previously asserted but have been at best justified and at worst denied by those in power; police are under reporting crime. We have been told that we have the finest judicial system the world has ever known. That being the case it doesn`t seem to have convinced the MOJ that there is a sure way to be certain that there is a sufficient number of the senior judiciary to deal with the workload before it; paying the required rate to increase the supply, improve the current pension scheme and recognise that the working conditions are less than adequate. Today it is confirmed that in addition to a shortage of magistrates, a situation that was predictable to a MOJ which has been blind, deaf and dumb to its own inadequacy, more than half of all magistrates courts have been closed since the Tories in coalition took power in 2010. Earlier this month dozens of courts were in chaos owing to breakdowns in their IT systems.
I know about the above because I was personally involved and still take an interest in the judicial system and its ancillary parts. But there are many who know similar problems in their own specialities. Indeed I`m certain some are reading these words who could tell similar tales but chances are these stories won`t make the news until catastrophe happens eg Grenfell where corruption and incompetence that caused that tragedy are waiting to be teased out of witnesses and evidence presented when the enquiry resumes. Two aircraft carriers launched way behind schedule and over budget that won`t have planes to fly from them and be fully operational until 2021, nuclear submarines in a similar situation and an army which outsourced recruitment and now is thousands short in manpower: and that is just a small part of the failings of the MOD.
There is no need for me to continue in this vein. We all know it. The current chaos on Brexit was inevitable. The warnings were there. The foundations of those warnings were solid. And that is about the only solidity in this whole sorry story.
Tuesday, 22 January 2019
How can police who often are under great pressures hope to command public respect with their becoming judge and jury and coming to such an inadequate conclusion?
Monday, 21 January 2019
The Home Secretary has explained this apparent anomaly insofar as the death penalty has long been abolished in the UK. "Our longstanding opposition to the death penalty has not changed. Any evidence shared with the US in this case must be for the express purpose of progressing a federal prosecution."
From time to time polls have indicated that there are deep divisions in this country on whether or not Parliament should reverse the abolition decision which was initiated half a century ago and when assurances were made by parliamentarians that adequate custodial sentences would not lead to increases in homicides. This was a fatuous affirmation to the great British public. Proponents of the current position are quick to cite that only a few nations including certain states in the USA use the death penalty and that these are indeed mainly countries where democracy is in name only.
Two years ago a poll indicated that EU Leavers were sympathetic to bringing back capital punishment. Last year Sky News published a poll showing that Conservatives had a majority also similarly in favour. Having the good fortune to still be on this Earth after having enjoyed three scores year and ten and having been accused of being a dinosaur I am firmly of the belief that social mores work on a cyclical basis where opinions swing just as the weight of a pendulum reaches its amplitude and reverses its direction of motion. I believe that we are in just such a situation where the amplitude is about a decade or so from the vertical. The discussions over the EU are just a single example of this. The return of capital punishment could be another.
Wednesday, 16 January 2019
Richard Anthony Ward Coombes, 42, of no fixed address, two counts of theft as a trespasser, 12 weeks prison (consecutive) on each count, £780 compensation; theft as a trespasser; damaged a detention cell, one week prison (consecutive); used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, two weeks prison (consecutive); caused a nuisance or disturbance to an NHS staff member, possession of cannabis, breached a criminal behaviour order, no separate penalty. (G).
The above is copied from yesterday`s "This Is The West Country."
The report below is copied from "The Gazette" [Blackpool] yesterday.
Both these offenders were sentenced to immediate custody. The government pressurised by campaign groups and looking for further savings on its bill for prisons seeks to explain that all will be well if magistrates courts have the custody option removed bearing in mind that 4% only of cases at those courts result in a custodial sentence. I would invite any reader who supports such proposal comment on what they might consider a suitable non custodial sentence bearing in mind of course that only those in the courts at the relevant times would have heard all the proceedings.
Wednesday, 9 January 2019
Monday, 7 January 2019
Friday, 4 January 2019
Today I read a headline in the Aberdeen Evening Express and other similar journals that reads "Funding cuts force police to tolerate violence, says senior officer".
Thursday, 3 January 2019
The 2018 judicial diversity statistics, surprise surprise, give a diversity breakdown of the judiciary as of 1 April 2018. The data shows that 55% of magistrates were female (compared to 54% in April 2017) and 12% of magistrates declared themselves as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (compared to 11% in April 2017). Just 4% of magistrates were aged under 40, while 11% were aged 40-49, 31% were aged 50-59, and 55% were aged over 60. Latest numbers on ethnic diversity in England and Wales are as below:-
For some years the "great and the good" plus many lesser mortals with more volume than sense have berated the magistracy as being out of touch with current mores and thus not being representative of society is unable to perform its public function notwithstanding that all magistrates on appointment take the following oath:- “I, _________ , do swear by Almighty God that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second in the office of Justice of the Peace , and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.”
When magistrates are criticised a Martian observer might conclude that individually and/or collectively they are not adhering to that oath. Others, often those leaning leftwards in their philosophical thinking, might disagree but very few if any of many lobbyists have made audited statistical results that conclusively show that the supposed lack of so called diversity is failing us as a society. Ethnic minority JPs are very well represented on the magistrates` bench. If there were such a failing it would inevitably call into question whether or not J.P.s were acting contrary to their oath of office. The arguments of "groupthink" are then raised or as a well known figure who died in 33AD is recorded as having said at the time, "They know not what they do". We are told our unconscious or subconscious prejudices are fashioning our performance and we must be re-educated out of them. The Chinese are well adept at this argument and the treatment thereof.
Age, class and ethnic diversity are the three areas where criticism of the magistracy is concentrated. Justices of the Peace are not paid; carefully scrutinised essential expenses are available for essential travel and subsistence. Some employers will subsidise the system by allowing the thirteen days minimum annual sittings required to be taken without loss of earnings but many will not. JPs in that situation must then decide if they can afford to take the loss of wages or holidays in lieu. It is therefore as clear as day that many individuals will be ruled out or will rule themselves out of applying for the magistracy. It doesn`t take an Einstein to appreciate that only those lucky enough to have understanding employers or sufficient income will offer themselves for selection. The self employed formed about 15%-20% of my colleagues but that is only my finger in the wind estimate. No official figures are available. Those banging on about a lack of "young magistrates" appear not to have offered sensible if any ways to persuade under thirties or even under forties candidates to apply. I was self employed from my early twenties but could not contemplate an application much as I wanted to until I was over fifty when I was in a fortunate and comfortable financial position and I was the rule not the exception. No government now or in future will pay magistrates a going rate which must be around £300 daily. It would ruin MOJ budgets. More likely is the scenario of District Judges taking over the prime functions at all magistrates courts and relegating a rump of JPs to wingers for trials and in single justice procedures. Outwith the financial barrier to younger applications is the consideration of whether the current minimum age of 18 is compatible with the wisdom needed to operate as a magistrate. It was only in 2004 that that minimum age was reduced from 27. Youth has its place of course but IMHO it was a gross mistake bowing to a spurious societal requirement that age diversity had to be a factor in making courts supposedly reflect the society in which they operate. Class references are a leftist mantra for so much of what they consider are our failings as a nation. Nobody within a magistrates bench gives a monkey`s fart about class. Individuals are respected for their ability to do the job whether bus driver or barrister and there was more than one of each on my bench. The class argument is typical socialist claptrap. From the statistics above the magistracy is as ethnically diverse as a tube of smarties; all colours and tastes are there on merit. If protagonists of "increasing diversity" are unhappy then let them spell our what their wish list is. If quotas are mentioned then normal argument has failed.
The rambling socialist discourse being deliberately overheated by Corbyn and his cultist following will seize upon any aspect of our society where the Tories have allowed their sometimes equally unhelpful dogma of austerity to override sense and sensibility when it comes to our justice system. Legal Aid or more accurately the lack thereof is perhaps the most regressive measure taken in recent decades. The Tory governments since 2010 are directly responsible for this blot on the legal system. Reduced or unavailable legal aid increases the power of the state over the individual and is a direct impediment to justice being seen to be done.
Magistrates deserve more than lip service support from those within the legal family. Continually harping on about diversity is unhelpful if not disingenuous.