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 ten years whilst I was active I retain it now only as a literary device no longer actually using the term JP for any other purpose whatsoever.





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Thursday, 31 January 2019

KNIFE PREVENTION ORDERS; PAPERING OVER THE CRACKS

I have posted more than a few times on ASBOs and the like. Use the search box for posts.  Essentially they are civil orders breaching of which is a criminal offence.  I would term them displacement orders insofar as eg Drink Banning Orders can order the miscreant to do his/her boozing in another county or another town.  There have even been cases where the order has been nationwide.  They are IMHO a complete waste of time and an abrogation of our society to deter and if necessary punish people for their criminality.  But and it`s a big "but" they are simple and cheap to operate. And for the last nine years it appears that our criminal justice system is like the original motto of Tesco; pile it high and pile it cheap. The ASBO, CRASBO and DBO`s latest incarnation is the Knife Crime Prevention Order.  For actual details access this link. Stop and search operations were drastically curtailed by Theresa May as Home Secretary because it was asserted that they unfairly targeted young black men notwithstanding the fact that in many areas especially London it was young black men who were most likely to be victims of knife attacks. The spate of such attacks in London appears not to be met by police in sufficient numbers to show that the situation is under control. Thus this latest innovation.  I will not repeat the caveats expressed in the link above but it is my strong belief that this so called initiative will fail in its intention and will truly further alienate young black men.  This time there will be good cause for the resentment that will surely follow and that will make the relationship between them and police even more fractious. It is another example of increasing the powers of police to control our society by suspicion rather than by evidence; a catch all associated more often with jurisdictions where acting according to law is an afterthought rather than a priority.  These orders are just another example of papering over the cracks caused by the slashing of resources since 2010.

Monday, 28 January 2019

A SORRY STORY

I have voted Tory since 1979. The late seventies showed that the trade unions and the Labour Party had brought ruin to the country and the Tories under Margaret Thatcher had shown that their own moribund attitudes were for the past. The three day week and reading by candlelight were their nadir. In 1997 John Major with his determination to integrate the £ sterling with a "basket of European currencies" was so out of tune with the voters that they and I voted in a democratic social democratic party under the Labour label. We all had a clear choice.  We are now told by those who make their living commenting on the political situation that there could be an election at any time. And what is our choice?  A government led by a totally incompetent and personally unsuitable person who was appointed to her post because she was the second or third choice who aroused the fewest objections of a parliamentary party with the combined political IQ of a toad. She is bringing us closer to national ruin in so many aspects of our daily lives that there is a real possibility that there could be a true believing antisemitic Marxist occupying 10 Downing Street. The current state of our justice system provides the very evidence of what to a greater or lesser extent is happening throughout our society.  

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

AN INADEQUATE CONCLUSION AT HEATHROW

One would have thought that suggesting there was a bomb and assaulting a security officer in the vicinity of the threat at Heathrow, would have been enough for an intending passenger to be arrested on suspicion and eventually charged with appropriate offence(s). In the case of the son of a world famous singer he was, unlike many who have committed similar offences, cautioned by police.  This was a disgraceful dereliction of duty by the police.  The officers involved and any superiors who agreed the caution should be charged with misconduct.  

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

OPINIONS OF A DINOSAUR

Last week the High Court rendered a not widely publicised decision on the future fate of the two British prisoners held in Syria by Kurdish forces.  They are accused of being not only Isis terrorists but part of the infamous group of murderers who filmed their murder by decapitation with a knife of innocent people and broadcast their horrendous deeds to the world.  This was part of a cold blooded exercise to terrorise those who opposed their attempts to impose Sharia over vast areas of Iraq and Syria.  The Home Secretary had agreed their extradition to the USA where they could be subject to the death penalty if found guilty of the charges laid against them.  That High Court decision leaves the way clear for them to face the legal system of a foreign jurisdiction where if found guilty for their alleged crimes the death penalty is an option.  

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

IF NOT CUSTODY; WHAT????

RECENT cases dealt with by Taunton Magistrates' Courts include:

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.

Blackpool Magistrates' Court

A father-of-eight repeatedly messaged his former partner in breach of a court order. Lee Morement even contacted a male friend of his ex’s and tried to dissuade him from having a relationship with her, even though they were only platonic friends. Morement, 36, of Ribble Road, Blackpool, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a restraining order. He was sentenced to 16 weeks jail and ordered to pay £115 victims’ surcharge by District Judge Jane Goodwin sitting at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court. The judge told him: “You have yet again broken an order designed to protect her.”Prosecutor, Pam Smith, said Morement was made the subject of an indefinite restraining order in September last year which banned him from contacting his ex or going near her address. On December 23 he messaged his ex stating: “Put me back in jail all you like,” before messaging a male friend of hers warning him off from having a romantic relationship with her. He had previously breached restraining orders and at the time of the offence was on licence from prison after assaulting his ex.Steven Townley, defending, said his client and ex had been together 18 years and had eight children.There had been problems in their relationship because Morement had a bad drinking problem and they split up in July. Since then he had only seen one of the children because the others were said not to be ready to see him. In a December (sic)  he was at a party and had been drinking. 

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

THE GONE MAGISTRATE

There is a prominent article in today`s Times [copied below] urging the government to allow Justices of the Peace to retire at age 75, five years older than the current age. It has been common knowledge for over a decade that the age profile of magistrates was such that a severe shortage of JPs was to be expected.  Indeed the discomfort for HMCTS is that not surprisingly many benches in addition to being short of magistrates per se will have fewer approved chairman to preside over courts.  That will lead inevitably to a need for more District Judges and Deputy DJs because as with the current shortage of nurses and GPs it will be nigh impossible to achieve the required additional numbers in the anticipated time frame.  My two predictions are that even although magistrates` training is currently nothing short of rudimentary unless government supplies more money future training standards will be below that which in the past produced lay personnel of such quality that they could preside over experienced legal practitioners with confidence notwithstanding of course the assistance of legal advisors. My other spot of crystal ball gazing leads me to conclude that owing to the aforementioned situation and desire for government control lay benches of magistrates as are now recognised will simply be allowed to wither on the vine. Already single justice procedures are active; it won`t be long before District Judges will take over most of the summary work and Justices of the Peace will be lucky if they are retained as wingers only or for other out of court processes. Thus will end over six centuries of truly justice for the people by the people.  Nobody will care; that`s the pity.



Monday, 7 January 2019

THE SACKING OF RICHARD PAGE ex J.P. PART 3

Latest news on sacked magistrate Richard Page; he is one step closer in his appeal to be re-instated. Previous posts on this topic going back some years can be seen by putting "Richard Page" into search box. 

COURT CLOSURES LATEST INFORMATION

Read very latest information from House of Commons on court closures

Friday, 4 January 2019

POLICE TOLERATE VIOLENCE

I would opine that in the age group over aet 50 a minority only has been the victim of violent crime.  That group would include most judges and magistrates  their familiarity with violent criminal offending resulting from their experiences in court and the anecdotal and statistical analyses that circulate within society. Until new years eve I was within that group. Whilst eating and drinking at a grand party where my table of ten was occupied by five couples who were strangers to each other I got into conversation with a young retiree from Whitby who told me his sorry tale of an event in August. He was cycling home on his just purchased  brand new state of the art lightweight racing bike when, on a narrow uphill section of a country road, he was verbally abused by an irate driver and passenger of a high powered Audi because he was holding up their progress. Eventually he was able to pull into a shallow lay by to allow the impatient driver to overtake. At the top of the hill a few minutes later he found his way barred by the passenger standing in the road screaming abuse. With no warning or provocation from the cyclist he severely assaulted him damaging his eye which required intensive hospital treatment and badly damaged his bicycle to the tune of thousands of pounds. A few days later he revisited the scene and discovered to his surprise that  the whole affair had been covered by the security cameras of a nearby house.  He contacted local police who viewed the footage and confirmed that they knew the alleged assailant but that they could not take the matter to the CPS owing to a lack of police manpower. IMHO a charge of ABH would not have seemed inappropriate. 

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

STOP BLEATING ABOUT THE MAGISTRACY`S LACK OF DIVERSITY


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.