Following on from yesterday when I alluded to the themes that have driven this blog along for almost four 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 ten or fifteen 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 opposed to the concept of justice. J.P.s have been increasingly encouraged to participate in out of court functions eg serving on committees with police to overlook the functioning of the system of Fixed Penalty Notices, to serve on groups whose function is restorative justice and other forms of what is termed â€œneighbourhood justiceâ€. The appointment of professional District Judges(M.C.) has accelerated corresponding with a 17% reduction in the magistracy over a similar period; this at a time when, owing to various factors, the through put in the courts is down by 20%.
As if the writing on the wall were not clear enough it has come to my attention that the Justice Minister responsible, Damian Green, will be star speaker at meetings around the country next month entitled INVITATION TO FUTURE ROLE OF THE MAGISTRATE EVENT. Of one thing we can be sure: this so called â€œeventâ€ will be for his purpose; not for ours. I am sure he has not lightly given up his summer holiday allowance (or a good part of it) to assure us how important we are to his future plans. To quote from the invitation to magistrates to attend, his office has written, â€œ The speech will be followed by a discussion event where we are inviting you to share your views of how we can best transform the role of the magistrateâ€.
The die has been cast. The decision has been made. We are to be transformed or at least our role must be transformed. The runes are there to be read. The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ: all those who have refused to read the writing on the wall must surely now be convinced. All magistrates courts will be presided over by District Judges who for their part of the bargain will have to dispense with legal advisors. Indeed the term â€œmagistrates courtsâ€ will likely be changed to â€œDistrict Courtâ€ or â€œLocal Royal Courtâ€ or similar. J.P.s such as remain (perhaps 5,000 â€“ 7,500)will be precluded from remand courts but will be given the sop of sitting as permanent wingers on trials with perhaps or perhaps not an input on sentencing.
Such is the emasculation prepared for us.