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Police: ONLY THE NAME WILL BE THE SAME

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
There are some who opine that magistrates or retired  magistrates should not take part in activities such as blogging. Unlike the paid judiciary whose livelihoods and pensions depend upon not biting the hand that feeds them magistrates are volunteers.  They offer opinions and knowledge that often is not listened to or does not percolate through the established layers of communication.  Indeed the MOJ was so concerned to keep the so called independent magistracy under its control that last year it advertised for magistrates to be appointed "leadership magistrates". So unlike the previous senior magistrates who were elected by their peers via the Magistrates Association or from the Bench Chairmen`s Forum  and who liaised with the various judicial committees these incomers would be beholden to the Lord Chancellor for their positions and opinions whether or not the latter were truly representative of their 15,000 colleagues. Sad to relate this is just another small step towards the bowing out of the independent magistrate as...

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Police: BLOWING MY OWN TRUMPET

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Today the government has published "Going to a criminal court - support for defendants". This initiative is long overdue. Without blowing too hard on my own trumpet, in my blog of 28th September 2015 I suggested the very same. To quote, "My personal opinion for what it`s worth is that the provision of literature,  sent with summons and supplied  at remand courts, that explains procedures and consequences of plea and allocation is long overdue.  In the foreseeable future with anticipated increases in litigants in person it would be criminal not to so do".  The complete blog was based on interviews with a number of my former colleagues.  The complete post is available here.




Police: SHOULD SENTENCING LEAD OR BE LED BY PUBLIC OPINION?

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
The country is divided by Brexit; of that we are all aware. The judiciary is divided on sentencing but we don`t hear about it until judges are retired. In a similar fashion magistrates are similarly divided on those who take a view in line with MOJ Sentencing Guidelines and try to err on the side of leniency and sympathy for the offender. The other faction takes a more traditional view; a view which has more in line with general opinion but still subservient to the Guidelines. I make no apology to anyone that whilst following those Guidelines  and in consultation with my two colleagues my opinion would also take into account public protection such a position sometimes being overlooked by magistrates and their legal advisors. The final decision of magistrates sitting in Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court on this case erred on the side of leniency and sympathy IMHO of course.

The philosophical question of course for that sentencing decision as with all others is how much sentencing should lead or be led by...

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Police: JUDGING THE JUDGES

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
There is no doubt that every government of every hue has to manage secrecy.  That is a simple statement to make but far from simple to practise and manage.  Since the catastrophic decision to hold a referendum in 2016 to this casual onlooker it appears that there have been more leaks from the government than in the water pipes under London` streets. But there is one department where leakage of information seems to be kept under control and that is within the Ministry Of Justice. Despite or perhaps because it has an enormous press and public relations department employing many dozens or perhaps hundreds of workers; even that number is not available, the goings on surrounding those who are the public face of justice ie magistrates and judges are strictly off limits.  Certainly the public face of retribution for those under its auspices erring or deviating from sometimes obscure guidelines; the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office  publishes its somewhat truncated reports monthly or even more frequently. But what is unavailable for...

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Police: FREEDOM SWAN`S FRANTIC WEBBED FEET

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
We all have become accustomed of late to earth shattering  legal decisions which have or will have profound results for our daily lives and/or the way we live both as individuals and as a nation.  However it`s not always the headline making stories of legal jousting which illustrate just how authority or those entrusted with enabling parliamentary direction alter people`s lives. 

The police have been granted since my appointment two decades ago, increasing powers of control over ordinary citizens without recourse to the courts.  Indeed some forms of authority which used to be under the auspices of police at superintendent level are now available to inspectors. Evidence based out of court decisions by police or local authorities are not now necessarily the norm.  An interesting case at  St Albans Magistrates' Court before a professional District Judge (MC) rather than a bench of magistrates which arguably would have been more suitable in the circumstances has been recently reported involving a man`s private hire driver's...

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Police: SENIOR JUDICIARY MUST REMAIN ABOVE POLITICS

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
The Supreme Court has had more exposure in the last week than since its establishment ten years ago. For this retired magistrate it was a pleasure to witness the eloquence and purposeful arguments put forward by both sides` lawyers.  The final judgement was a masterpiece in logical structured reasoning which left no room to doubt the diligence in the way that that judgement was reached.  It was regrettable and inevitable that as soon as it had been broadcast some politicians on the Leave side of the Brexit debate accused their lordships and ladyships of bias. The accusation made in 2016 by the Daily Mail will not be forgotten.

Enemies of the people: Fury over 'out of touch' judges who have 'declared war on democracy' by defying 17.4m Brexit voters and who could trigger constitutional crisis 

  • Judges ruled Brexit could not be triggered without a Westminster vote
  • The Lord Chief Justice and two colleagues were branded 'out of touch'
  • They were accused of putting Britain on course for a 'constitutional crisis' 


Police: THE LEGAL PYRAMID

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Currently the nation has the opportunity to see and hear the finest legal brains exercising their minds on the prime minister`s recent proroguing of parliament.  We all should be proud that the pinnacle at the very top of the judicial pyramid can produce such exquisite minds on and before the bench. However the very careful considerations and histories which have brought us this bounty are the antithesis of the situation at the base of said structure. Availability of even the most limited legally qualified mind is now rarely available for the millions who appear annually before the bench in magistrates courts.  The provisions for any form of rehabilitation  for the 70% of offenders who are addicts involved in violent and/or acquisitive offending are in practice few and far between.  Consideration of a non court pathway if it has been considered at all by MOJ has been given short shrift.  By the actions of Chris Grayling the probation service is struggling to cope with demands upon it with consequent reactions from a staff whose morale is as...

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Police: MOJ CONTROL BY MANAGED DECAY

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
In some respects the criminal justice system doesn`t know whether it`s coming or going.  That directionless state can, I suppose, be placed at the feet of the four prime ministers of the last  decade who have saddled arguably the most important pillar of our democratic society with no less than eight Justice Secretaries each of whom had his/her "vision".  An obvious example of this antithesis to joined up thinking is the confused attitude to sentencing.  Ever since it was decided that judges and magistrates could not be trusted to sentence according to the structured sentencing system which had been inculcated into them all, Sentencing Guidelines have become the bible for all sentencing decisions from the very simplest to the most serious. The original Guidelines of 2010 have been modified as almost an annual undertaking.  The custodial powers of magistrates courts have been mooted to be increased to twelve months from the current six to being abolished altogether.  The newly appointed current incumbent of Petty France has...

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Police: COURTS CAN PROTECT SCHIZOPHRENICS BUT CANNOT REHABILITATE ALCOHOLICS OR ADDICTS

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Every magistrates` court every week has before it a Darren Marples, of no fixed abode. He might have a different name, he might be black or he might occasionally be female but he invariably has a long history of public order offences and is more often than not of no fixed abode. He is always an alcoholic and/or drug addict. It is not unlikely that he has in the past served one or more short custodial sentences. In the past he might have had a court order made to address his alcoholism/addiction. If he were married he is now separated or divorced. If he had children he is no longer in touch with them.


Darren Marples should be confined by a compulsory order to an institution where he could be treated just as those in the appropriate circumstances can be sectioned and treated by mental health workers having if necessary been granted a warrant of entry from a Justice of the Peace. Of course those financially equipped can avail themselves of all the help and assistance available to...

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Police: MUSINGS ON THURSDAY 5

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
During my tenure on the bench I had several cases where a foreign offender appeared to be eligible for deportation; in theory at least. It would seem from my experiences and cases publicly reported that expelling an offender who comes within the guidelines is virtually impossible insofar as the process is Kafkaesque in its complexity. Therefore IMHO for a district judge to cry "wolf" in this case is bluster and bluster is unwise from judicial figures. 

Of all the iniquitous financial reductions imposed upon the justice system perhaps the very worst is the reduction in the availability of legal aid.  At Barkingside and Romford magistrates' courts notice has been given that there will be  further difficulties for defendants as fewer solicitors will be available to assist them.  This is a national disgrace but apart from most professionals will be recognised as such only by those caught up in the court system. 

It`s unusual for a defendant being given the maximum custodial sentence at a magistrates court also having that sentence suspended....

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Latest The Justice Of The Peace Stories

ONLY THE NAME WILL BE THE SAME
BLOWING MY OWN TRUMPET
SHOULD SENTENCING LEAD OR BE LED BY PUBLIC OPINION?
JUDGING THE JUDGES
FREEDOM SWAN`S FRANTIC WEBBED FEET

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