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Police: WHAT IS THE "SENIOR MAGISTRACY"?

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Yesterday the Lord Chancellor made the following statement in reply to a question in the House of Lords,

"I thank the hon. Lady for that question. She will be glad to know that daily work is going on between my officials and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, the senior judiciary and the senior magistracy (my bold)  to make sure that we can progress more cases through both the magistrates and the Crown courts. Of immediate importance are magistrates court hearings: I want to see more of them come forward. We can do a lot of them virtually, and I know that the work being done by my hon. Friend the Minister for Crime and Policing, together with my Department, will help improve the speed of the delivery of these important cases."

My simple point is what is the senior magistracy?  My suspicions are that I know what it is not likely to be and that is the various chairman of the various benches known as the bench chairmen`s forum.  Not likely because these people are elected by their colleagues and the...

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Police: THE MYTH OF OPEN JUSTICE

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
During the riots of 2011 instructions to me and my colleagues from the Deputy Justices Clerk were that where defendants were facing either way charges they must be sent to the crown court for trial.  I did not observe that order and on at least one occasion my  bench accepted jurisdiction.  With the corona virus trashing so many of our legal, business and social activities the Ministry of Justice after a somewhat inauspicious  beginning is organising the early release of some carefully chosen prisoners.  However it occurred to me as I presume it has occurred to others outside the judiciary that it is not unlikely that similar "advice" as that detailed above to me in 2011 has been whispered to sentencers in the lower court that every attempt should be made to avoid immediate imprisonment of offenders even although only around 3% of offenders suffer immediate custody in that court. These examples from Sheffield seem to be such an indication. Now that some magistrates courts are closed to the public and reporters also experiencing...

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Police: "QUIZ" AND THE SECRET BARRISTER

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Owing to current circumstances there is a dearth of interesting cases or controversial events upon which it is worth my commenting or you, dear reader, reading. But what is worth a few minutes, is that for those old enough to have watched the original shows of Who Wants to be a Millionaire 20 years ago and to have watched the ITV three parter "Quiz" based upon the notorious case of the coughing major who was convicted of cheating his way to a £1,000,000, is the comment by the "Secret Barrister" on the court and other legal scenes.   

I must admit to having missed one or two of the points she has made.  I would hope that practising criminal lawyers missed none.


Police: THE IDENTITY POLITICS OF THE MAGISTRATES ASSOCIATION

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace

Image

IDENTITY POLITICS: 
"a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics".

"sometimes referred to as identitarianism, is a political approach and analysis based on people prioritising the concerns most relevant to their particular racial, religious, ethnic, sexual, social, cultural or other identity, and forming exclusive political alliances with others of this group".

I doubt many will argue with the above definitions.  The term has been in use in various forms since the 1960s or 1970s, but has been applied with, at times, radically different meanings by different populations.  It is likely that as with so many now popular labels this one originated in America and primarily as a vehicle for black Americans to vocalise the rights as citizens they felt had been undermined by the white majority. In such a diverse society it quickly became a useful tool for Hispano Americans, native...

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Police: COURTROOM TELEVISION IS A STEP NEARER

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
The MOJ, HMCTS and others are making full use of the dozens of public relations weasels frantically typing away on their keyboards in the bowels of Petty France. A section of their latest missive on behalf of HMCTS is copied below. 

Media and interested parties continue to be able to attend physical hearings in the ‘open’ courts to uphold the principles of open justice. Where this is not possible, judicial consideration is being given to enable new ways for journalists to join a hearing remotely, or a receive a transcript afterwards. We are continuing to work to develop ways in which we can continue to support media and public access to the work or courts and tribunals.

There have been many unconfirmed reports that despite the thousands of words from MOJ on how information on the workings of the courts, including of course magistrates courts which are not courts of record, can be brought to the public via accredited court reporters and other journalists there is a lack of information to the extent that many hearings...

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Police: COVID-19 PROSECUTION// THE FINAL CHAPTER

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace

Last Friday April 3rd I told the story of Marie Dinou who found unwanted fame as the first person found guilty of contravening the new regulations about movement in this era of virus contagion. Having admitted that she was convicted under "wrong legislation" her conviction was quashed.  British Transport Police has apologised but added that she refused to speak to its officers when she was stopped "loitering between platforms". The CPS has been silent. Apparently Ms Dinou did not speak to anyone at the police station, failed to confirm her identity at court, failed to enter a plea and did not speak to a solicitor assigned to represent her. The District Judge was a certain Sarah-Jane Griffiths who was called to the Bar (L) in 1998 and admitted as a Solicitor in 2010. She was appointed as a Fee-paid Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, Social Entitlement Chamber (Social Security and Child Support) in 2013. Judge Griffiths  concluded that the defendant was being "obstructive".It seems that the judge`s inquiries into...

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Police: A DARK ROAD AHEAD

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace

Restrictions on movement
6.—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living
without reasonable excuse.
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need—
(a) to obtain basic necessities, including food and medical supplies for those in the same
household (including any pets or animals in the household) or for vulnerable persons and
supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household, or the
household of a vulnerable person, or to obtain money, including from any business listed
in Part 3 of Schedule 2;
(b) to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household;
(c) to seek medical assistance, including to access any of the services referred to in paragraph
37 or 38 of Schedule 2;
(d) to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care within the meaning of
paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006(a), to
a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;
(e) to donate blood;
(f) to travel...

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Police: COVID-19 LOCKDOWN; MAGISTRATES` HEALTH OR DUTIES?

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace

Today and for the foreseeable future magistrates of whom around 85%  are over 50 years old and over half are more than 60 will be rechecking their rotas and wondering whether they should be thinking of their own health and that of their families or whether the social good and obligation  of appearing at court has priority.  Considering all are volunteers it is impossible not to assume that many benches will consist of two magistrates and not the usual three for the next few months.  

Whilst I was active video links were in operation mainly for bail hearings for prisoners on remand.  The expansion of video links has been one of the major initiatives of HMCTS in its "modernisation" programme and has been ruthlessly promulgated by its press relations factory deep in the bowels of Petty France.  It seems, however, that such links are hopelessly bedevilled by system failure often at police stations so demonstrating the inability of defendants to be dealt with by the technology on first appearance.  The result...

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Police: CORONA VIRUS`S LUCKY 4%

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Having self isolated for the last week or so and having been retired from the bench for over five years my intimate knowledge of the magistrates courts is at best third hand or at worst via Twitter.  Having now laid my ignorance firmly on the line please allow me to voice a couple of thoughts that seem to require others for the answers.  

Even allowing for the closure of some courts the notification of which is a resounding silence from HMCTS the situation must be untenable for magistrates of whom around 85%  are over 50 years old and over half are more than 60.  Considering all are volunteers it is impossible not to assume that many benches will consist of two magistrates and not the usual three.  Each JP will have considered the health of those with whom s/he is in daily contact such consideration overriding  any obligation to perform their allotted duties. In such circumstances I fail to see that the single justice procedure, of which I have no personal experience its implementation being some time after my retirement, will not...

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Police: TO JP OR NOT JP: THAT IS THE QUESTION

Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace

Post-nominal letters also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles or designatory letters, are letters placed after a person's name to indicate that the individual holds a position, academic degree, accreditation, office, military decoration, or honour, or is a member of a religious institute or fraternity.

The Lord Chancellor’s Directions to Advisory Committees from which I have copied the following would seem to make the situation re use of said letters perfectly clear:-

"Magistrates
The initials JP may be used on private and business letterheads etc in the same way as academic or professional qualifications. But they should not be used for the furtherance of trade, professional, business or political interests".

I know of at least one magistrate who is located in the West Midlands who flights that direction with impunity despite the powers that be knowing full well of her disregard for the directive. Perhaps there is an underlying cadre within upper judicialdom  which has given the nod to some and not to...

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