Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.





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Friday, 28 June 2019

AN OPINION?

It is unusual that a judgement at the Court of Appeal might appeal (excuse the pun) to the reader of this site. However today`s result on when is "opinion" "opinion" is quite interesting. 

Monday, 24 June 2019

INQUEST INJUSTICE

Only a tiny minority of the population has been or will be involved in a terrorist attack. Of these unfortunates a significant number has been or will be killed.  In those circumstances an inquest would normally be held in order to establish the facts of what happened.  Unlike court proceedings it will be inquisitorial not adversarial.  All the government agencies involved will be represented by highly qualified legal teams funded by public money; your taxes and my taxes. The relatives of the bereaved will not be so funded.  Legal aid is usually unavailable for such people unless "it is the public interest" and only after an intrusive and means tested process.  That is one example of how our government hides its secrets.  It is a disgrace about which most people don`t know or care. It is a prime example of how very rotten our governing classes have become. It is yet another example of the bedrock of our society disintegrating before our very eyes.  But of course the MOJ has an explanation: "Our thoughts remain with those who lost loved ones and while our review showed that legal representation is not necessary for bereaved families at the vast majority of inquests we are making changes to ensure there is more support for them."

Friday, 21 June 2019

THE SACKING OF RICHARD PAGE ex J.P. PART 4

Insert "Richard Page" into the search box and you will find a history of one of the most controversial sackings of a Justice of the Peace in living memory. The posts, the most recent of which was earlier this year on January 7th, need no explanation; they speak for themselves. It seems the final chapter of this story has been written.  An employment appeal tribunal has ruled that he was rightly dismissed.  Readers will have their own opinion on the decision made earlier this week.  

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

PARLIAMENTARY JUSTICE COMMITTEE REPORT

The Parliamentary Justice Committee has just published its latest report on the magistracy.  It seems that these worthy representatives of ours are once more wasting their time and effort not to mention our pounds.  Since 2010 the Conservative governments including the Coalition have steadily and painstakingly reduced the budgets of the justice system as a whole; from the curtailment of legal aid to the bare bones resulting in the impoverishment of the young lawyers seeking to secure their professional status by the imposition of pay rates in many cases no better than those of checkout workers to the acute shortage of judges who actually preside over crown courts and sit at the high court and whose position must not be overlooked even although many corbynites might consider they are already overpaid.  Then they would wouldn`t they.  Their modus operendi is to sow discord and confusion. Hundreds of closed courts based on government lies about the time and transport costs of alternative venues have taken place in the last decade. Prisons are a disgrace for a supposed enlightened nation.  And so to the magistracy: numbers of JPs have almost halved in the last decade.  Training costs have been decimated.  Probation services are not fit for purpose owing to Grayling`s failings. Bleatings are repeated by a desperate MOJ press office for more JPs to be appointed especially those from ethnic minorities and from disabled individuals who might or might not be able to offer 100% of what is required for the job. The list goes on.

Our justice system of which I as a new magistrate twenty or so years ago was so proud is now but a historical footnote. But all these newly appointed magistrates are unaware of that history.  They are represented not by elected colleagues (the Magistrates Association is but a figleaf)  but by government appointed lackeys and are known as national magistrates.  Where will this salami slicing end?  The apologists for all the above and more  will say that as a result we will have a streamlined system where justice is done to all.  The Jeremiah in me overcomes my natural optimism to conclude that on one side with a government more incompetent than any in my lifetime,  a parliament stuffed with self seekers whose main task is re-election and an opposition led by an antisemitic communist pied piper calling out a tune to dash our country on the rocks morally, defensively and economically, the prospects for our justice system are very poor.  But I forget; our civil courts at the highest level will still be targeted by unconvicted unscrupulous billionaires and their legal henchmen when their profits and/or their wives are failing. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

NUMBER OF MAGISTRATES COURT SESSIONS

A recent parliamentary answer by  Paul Maynard The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice was as below:-

The number of sessions sat in magistrates’ courts in England in the calendar year 2018 was 208,711. We don’t count days sat in the magistrates’ court and instead count sessions. A session is usually half a day in length.

A Freedom of Information request as to how these sessions were allocated to magistrates or District Judges(MC) was unable to be answered. " I can confirm that MOJ holds some of the information you have requested. However, to provide as the request currently stands would exceed the cost limit set out in the FOIA. Section 12(2) of the FOIA means public authorities are not obliged to comply with a request for information if it estimates the cost of complying would exceed the appropriate limit. The appropriate limit for central government it is set at £600. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 3.5 working days determining whether the department holds the information."  

Perhaps a number crunching reader can offer some insight into the significance or other wise of these figures bearing in mind my post of April 24th.  

Monday, 10 June 2019

NO INNOVATIVE THINKING AT THE MOJ

Main stream news unsurprisingly reports legal matters at the top of the legal tree; violent criminality, criminal suspected activity by famous persons, international infamous criminality, multi billion cases from the civil courts etc etc. These are the headline makers; the two minutes in a ten minute news bulletin. These events are not the legal stuff that affect the vast majority of the public. The million and more cases before magistrates courts every year are those which have an impact on the lives of most of us. And all the processes involved in these matters are treated with contempt by government. Police are so under resourced that most so called "minor" offences are in simple language "written off". Those that actually get to court, the tip of an unknown criminal iceberg, are often undercharged, undefended by people who have not the wherewithal intellectually or financially to present their case and who face a punishment if guilty determined by MOJ budgetary restraints rather than joined up thinking. Around 70% of those million cases have alcohol or drug addiction at the root cause of their offending and no government has has an answer to this problem which is costing billions of £ and thousands of lives annually. Those policy makers are bean counters with the occasional answers from innovating thinkers squeezed out of the process as was David Nutt. I am no innovator by training or inclination but a moment`s thought must lead to the conclusion that change is overdue in the treatment of such offenders as this. There is no sentence suitable for her or to address her offending. My answer is, to use the term offered by the Victorians, the workhouse. Not the institution we all read about as described by Dickens but an institution fit for the problems of the 21st century. Type that word "workhouse" into the search box on the side of this post for further information of my proposals which of course have absolutely no chance of being acceptable to any authority steeped in the ways of those who govern us. Innovative thinking is not a requirement for the MOJ just as common sense, a requirement when I was appointed JP, is not needed now to sit on the bench.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

U TURN ON SENTENCING BY MAGISTRATES ASSOCIATION

Shortly after my appointment as a Justice of the Peace like most of my colleagues I signed up to the Magistrates Association happy in my mind that the modest annual membership fee was a worthwhile payment for services received directly and indirectly.  I attended  not only local training sessions but more intimate brainstorming sessions.  Indeed at one such get together I suggested that with so many talented individuals with varied skills surely it would make much sense to invite such members to utilise their skills in direct service to the MA eg in marketing, public relations, statistics, informative writing, teaching etc etc etc.  This was at time when the members numbered about 90% of 30,000 JPs and when MA professional staff was minimal.  My suggestion made at the highest level was, as far as I know, never formally adopted. The MA around the millennium sponsored an interactive forum on its website after an initial member`s attempts failed. That effort ceased after a few years coinciding with the beginning of the government`s initiatives to bring the magistracy under closer control and at a stage now where HMCTS treats magistrates as unpaid employees and the MOJ appoints magistrates to represent magistrates. It was only around the millennium that government advisory panel considered increasing magistrates courts custodial powers to twelve months.  Now we have a situation where an emasculated probation service is being lobbied to take over all previous instances where custody would have been employed to ensure rehabilitation of a high order is available for the 4% of such offenders from well over a million cases annually where immediate custody is the outcome. This week the MA announced its backing for the abolition of all custodial sentences less than eight weeks. I would ask the Association upon what basis does it have its members` opinions to make such an announcement which is a major policy turn.  There is no doubt that heavy pressure must have been applied by government and that is its prerogative but if the Magistrates Association, a mere rump of its previous incarnation with only about 80% of the current 16,000 JPs as members, makes such an obvious U turn on its members` behalf the process of that decision being made must be made public.