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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
During training all new magistrates are told that if they or a close relative, or someone known to them has an involvement in a case which comes before them they must declare an interest and usually recuse themselves from any participation. Obviously the general guidance can be only that; general.  Certainly after a year or more on the bench a magistrate will have learned from colleagues when to consider if they are in breach of said guidance and of course the Deputy Justices Clerk is there for advice.  Therefore there appears to be no excuse for this woman although her name has not as yet appeared in cases disciplined by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office. This would seem to be wilful refusal to act judicially or culpable neglect on her part.  No doubt the full story will out. 


Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Without exception government departments employ hundreds if not thousands of people to spread the word; the word they want we, the public,  to hear on the basis that all  words of opposing opinion  will, if not drowned out, be lost in the cacophony that results.  Nowhere is this attempt at control more evident than within the Ministry of Justice which day by day is becoming an oxymoron. With all the problems facing the MOJ, last week the House of Commons Transport Committee with or without consultation with its colleagues at Justice or Home Office decided to recommend that all mobile phone use whilst driving be banned.  This announcement, of course, made headlines in all media. But in practical terms there is no way that a measure such as this with dubious supposed statistics at its rear end will make it into law.  There are as far as I know no statistics on driving convictions or penalty points allocated for the use of in car hands free phone use.  The so called eminent MPs might have issued a warning against a driver...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Since 2012 I have been commenting on the less than satisfactory history  of court interpreting that began with the yet to be investigated scandal of Applied Language Solutions` contract with the Ministry of Justice that year.  The MOJ for its part is regularly issuing notices of how efficient the current service is but apparently old habits die hard when it comes to that organisation`s signing of contracts.  

A sub contractor for these services went out of business last week.  It is now obvious that all government departments are obsessed with outsourcing.  In the oft forgotten days of the Callaghan administration and earlier, government employees used their trade union affiliations to cause havoc to public services.  I remember the three day week of 1972 and eating by candle light.  I remember rats searching in uncollected rubbish in 1979.  There was no doubt that Maggie Thatcher`s reforms to prevent such events was welcome relief but now the pendulum has swung to the maximum of its arc.  The principle of...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace

All those interested will have by now made up their minds whether or not our newly enthroned prime minister was showing “leadership” or being unwise in speaking out in support of “tough” sentencing. My own opinions on his and David Cameron`s similar comments and particularly of the Sentencing Council`s tick box structure have been mentioned here on more than one occasion. Cameron when PM revealed, perhaps without too much forethought, his thinking processes on the Sentencing Council.  He is quoted in The Telegraph at the time  as saying,

“My mum was a magistrate for 30-odd years and you don’t go on being a magistrate just reading the handbook and working out exactly what sentence is handed down. You respond to local circumstances, to the sense of right and wrong in that community.”

And that is precisely where the dispute in current sentencing now lies. For some years we have been told to do exactly that which is on the tin or top cover if preferred; read the handbook [guideline] and work out exactly...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
There is no doubt, unless the opinion is emanating from an MP on the Tory side where it`s waffle from dawn to dusk or from the Opposition where it`s based on, "they`re wrong whatever the topic", that most clear thinking individuals when pressed will admit to apprehensions about our justice system.  For this short post the justice system is a loose term encompassing the process from the law being broken to a defendant being found guilty or acquitted. In order to bring a defendant to court s/he must first be arrested for an alleged offence. However only about 8% of such people are actually charged.  In the last eight years the number of prosecutions has fallen by around 45%. Eight years ago there were just under 900,000 cases at magistrates and crown courts. Latest figures are just under 500,000. Ten years ago there were 20,000 more warranted police officers than there are currently. And nine years ago in Bradford the crown court was being overwhelmed with cases it could not handle with available resources. I posted on this particular city`s problems...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Sometimes magistrates courts and information of interest to those who use them are bereft of interesting items and at other times the pieces of news flow like buses after a hold up.

Whilst on the bench the most onerous decision making for me was not about whether to convict or acquit, to jail or not to jail but to decide if it were unsafe to bail an untried defendant especially in cases of alleged domestic violence.  Since then the procedure regarding bail has changed drastically. If I were a cynic I would suggest that these changes were designed to reduce the number of people kept in prison on remand but of course government does not operate like a black market shyster during World War 2.  Being now unable to keep suspects on almost unlimited bail with the associated conditions imposed police must release them without any conditions until they are ready to charge; this is called released under investigation.  This has been the case since April 2017. Since then the Metropolitan Police have released 97 out of 284 murder suspects. ...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace

Following on from my recent tweets when I alluded to the themes that have driven this blog along for almost ten years I surely must add perhaps the one of which I have most confidence that my fears will be realised; namely that the functions of Justices of the Peace comprising independent finders of fact and sentencers of the guilty will be but a historical memory within the next five or ten years. The pathway to our being snuffed out by governments with little regard for opposition within the whole panoply is there for anyone to see. Since the early 1990s an independent magistracy has been constrained and eventually consumed by what is now Her Majesty`s Courts and Tribunal Service via the disestablishment of magistrates` courts` committees and the local arrangements alongside; arrangements such as the daily rostering of J.P.s` benches by independent court elected rota committees. Instructions for such procedures are now directed by senior judiciary. Management structures have been put in place to serve the needs of government as...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace

Whenever there is talk on line, in the press, on TV and in Parliament of magistrates and their diversity or lack thereof, keyboards and throats get on their metaphorical high horses and proclaim how diverse the magistracy is in almost all aspects of gender, age and ethnic origin.  They try to be so transparent as to be free to the wind.  But when it comes to policies that affect magistrates courts those weasels in Petty France and Fitzrovia are rather less likely to be what you see is what you get organisations. 

For many decades the Magistrates Association has existed and I suppose still exists as an organisation of paying members of the magistracy to be their representative in dealings with government in its widest form.  At its peak about a decade ago or so there were around 30,000 magistrates of whom about 80% were MA members.  Now numbers of JPs have halved and the MA membership is a much lower percentage putting great financial strain on that organisation.  It has even stooped to the level of doing some dubious deals...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace

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.  

The above was the first paragraph of my post last month on June 21st. Another case of interest is the recent successful appeal by a Christian student expelled from his university.  The two cases  of course are quite different but paradoxically similar in many ways. I posted on this topic on 5th October 2017.

Religious belief, Christian, Muslim and Jewish has seemed to be more in the legal news than in previous years.  Considering that this is ostensibly a passive Christian country and that the Jewish population is only 250K it is not unlikely that...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Many people had their daily lives and routines severely disrupted recently when an organisation which has a one pony policy of alerting us to the perils of climate change took over main thoroughfares in many cities to make their point. Police as is often the case had to decide where the boundary lies between a citizen`s right of public protest and breach of public order. As a result, having been very "hands off" initially the need to keep streets available for all to use led to public criticism and the subsequent arrest of thousands of protesters. The CPS has endorsed more than a thousand prosecutions to be undertaken at Westminster Magistrates Court. This decision has led to the expected objections of those who have been called tree huggers in the past.  In this subject they are on the wrong side of the argument. Street disruption is straight from the anarchist playbook.  Whilst those in the current matter might have had altruistic motives their methods would be a demonstration of what would befall us as a society were extremists of...

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