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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
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...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
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...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
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...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Latest annual figures indicate there were 1,462,441 cases at the magistrates courts.  Of these 4,739 were appealed at the crown court against the verdict. 2,061 were allowed.  3,600 were appealed against sentence and 1,752 were allowed.  As a non statistician or lawyer I would suggest that this shows that benches did their job fairly well. 


Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
I really hope I`m not being repetitive but it seems that cases like this are more frequent than perhaps a decade ago.  Even if that is not the case the process of dealing with them has failed, is failing and will continue to fail until old ideas are swept away.  As with 70% of such offending alcohol and/or drugs are responsible for the recidivism.  Only by treating that underlying cause in a new and radical fashion will there be a possibility of rehabilitating such people.  The current so called choices for sentencers and probation service are next to useless. I have argued here for many years that that new form of institution required to carry out treatments for such offenders must have them under lock and key and subject to compulsory detox procedures. Write "workhouse" in the search box and take your choice of posts. Dismiss the underlying theme as is your wont but consider how you would address the problem. Add the comments to your reading. Apart from the ill informed ones most of the them indicate a legal failure to deal with the...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace

Every day thousands of demands are made of those in the probation services the efficiency of which as readers will know was decimated by Grayling`s disastrous incompetence at the MOJ.  One such demand is when an offender is being considered for unpaid work as part of a community sentence. Whether or not s/he is represented the bench should make detailed inquiries as to that person`s availability for such work; eg whether a disability could be a problem, childcare duties, employment obligations  etc etc. Since every court appearance by every offender costs the state money  it is in everyone`s interest that when sentencing all possible questions are raised as to any unforeseen problems that might arise. In the case reported here unless one was in court the quality of such pre sentence investigation is unknown but we do have reported the result.  Perhaps with the culling of senior JPs by retirements inexperienced magistrates are being let down by their legal advisors or perhaps pressures of time through overlisting are having not unexpected consequences. 


Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
There is no doubt that at many levels the criminal justice system is badly damaged if indeed "broken" is too severe a description; an opinion I do not hold. The civil courts still manage to operate with a modicum of fairness to those who use it.  Its being employed by very high net worth individuals to settle their disputes and divorces lines the pockets of those lawyers who specialise in such matters where legal aid is akin to band aid for billionaire pop stars.

It is unquestionable that there is a great temptation for unrepresented defendants in magistrates courts to plead guilty to "get the matter over with at the lowest possible cost".  Even before the introduction of Grayling`s iniquitous Criminal Courts Charge I as well as many colleagues had the personal experience of explaining to such defendants the downside of such hasty ill considered decisions often to little avail. For many years and with varying frequencies depending on the MOJ press office priorities and the loudmouth of the newest Minister to sit in Petty France,...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
The current Lord Chancellor (how long will he remain in post) announced today that the probation service will in effect be re nationalised in 2021.  Thus another "innovation" of the worst of his predecessors and least effective cabinet minister of modern times bites the dust. The probation service pre Grayling was, in my area, a service teetering on the brink of failing those in whom the courts had placed their future hopes of offenders  leading a law abiding future life.  Virtually every group or organisation involved with the delivery of probation services advised Grayling of the pitfalls in his proposals. The due diligence and pilot projects reinforced those predictions but he continued like the proverbial bull crashing into all the china. Not satisfied with what would be a ruinous policy he proceeded to inflict more of his ill considered policies. He removed the rights of prisoners` having books in their cells. Books were to be allowed to prisoners only when they displayed good (compliant) behaviour. To his...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
There has been a flurry of announcements on social media particularly Twitter that the MOJ is seeking to abolish "short" prison sentences.  That is a press relations department`s way of talking up a ban on any magistrates court being enabled to send offenders to custody.  Instead any outcome would be of a financial or so called rehabilitative nature overseen presumably by some sort of probation service which owing to the incompetence of failing Grayling is utterly incapable of providing such a service.  Such is the way the iniquitous weasels at Petty France perform their duties. Despite the usual moaners and groaners who have been pressing for such changes in the powers of the lower courts for as long as I have been involved in such matters it is almost a dead certainty that their desires will be as pie in the sky in the next decade  as they have been in the past. 

To return to real life as it is lived in court this offender has been correctly treated as the law allows.  To all those in the aforesaid moaners...

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Police: 2007-17 FINES AND MORE FINES

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Today the MOJ released its latest batch of criminal justice statistics.  No doubt most major news outlets and commentators  will be giving their opinions on what they all mean and then the politicians will weigh in.  I cannot and will not compete with that but I can comment on just a snippet of information from the myriad of numbers below which can be seen more clearly with the Windows magnifier tool.  They cover the years 2007-2017

The inflation rate in the £ over those ten years was 31.89%. The average fine (top of table left) in 2007 was £172 and ten years later (top right of table) was £256; a rise of 49%.  At the other end of the scale for fines over £10,000 there were 276 offenders in 2007 and in 2017 such offenders receiving over £10,000 fines numbered 2695. That major increase seems to be a direct policy result of using fines as punishments in place of other outcomes. There is much to decipher in this table. Readers more acquainted with statistics might have their own knowledge and opinions. 

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