It seems that breast feeding mothers called to jury service can have an exemption for a maximum of twelve months only. This seems to be an arbitrary time frame considering eg the possibility that after that time the woman might be pregnant again or having physical or mental health problems associated with recent motherhood. The oft stated argument that jurors must represent all factions of the population seems to me an outdated concept for this particular class of juror especially as Her Majesty`s Courts and Tribunal Service has no idea of exactly how a jury works, outside observers being banned from the jury room. For example if a jury system were to be established from scratch surely it would make sense for there to be an odd number of jurors, currently 12 except in Scotland where there are 15, thus facilitating a first effort decision. In such a scenario would it not be sensible for lesser offences to be tried by a smaller jury eg 7 retaining 11 or 13 for murder, armed robbery etc. In the light of Brexit why are non British citizens still eligible for jury duty? There are many more questions and studies awaiting answers but until the feeble minds at the MOJ reflect reality and practicality by allowing the appropriately qualified personnel to study and report on juries in action we will never know.
Like magistrates police officers must be apolitical in their application of the law and when performing their duties in general. What they say and/or do in the privacy of their own four walls remains although in Scotland with new legislation that is questionable. However when it comes to alleged misconduct of police officers it seems logic and uniformity of application is sometimes difficult to comprehend. In an unusual case a police officer was not sacked for gross misconduct and her chief constable appealed the decision of the independent tribunal which made that decision. His appeal was dismissed by a judge. It will be interesting to find out what happens to the officer at a recent march in support of Palestine who vocalised her support for the marchers and their demands.
Almost without exception every new Justice Secretary vows to undertake action against those who carry knives or sharpened instruments whether or not they are concealed, brandished or used. Maximum sentences are increased; public statements are made that judges have these increased powers of custody and the MOJ press office churns out the same propaganda it has done for decades. But then the offender appears for sentencing and judges and magistrates spoil the arrangement e.g. at Nottingham Magistrates Court not only was custody suspended but both sentences for carrying a knife were applied concurrently. Unfortunately as is usually the case the report is so short as to make comment mere speculation.
I retired from the bench five years ago but long before that time I, along with some colleagues, made representation as to why digital methods not excluding text and e mail, could not be used instead of and/or in addition to regular mail when informing all those who had court appointments whether as defendants or witnesses. With regard to hearings for driving disqualification it seemed a no brainer. This is but a single example of the problem such a simple innovation would help to avoid.
Courts have historically been built or been converted in town centres for the obvious reason that in previous times up to perhaps 1939 these areas were readily accessible to the majority of people in the area. Not any more they ain`t according to the Tories. Having secretly decided in 2010 Tory governments have since closed half the country`s magistrates courts working on the basis of their financial worthiness rather than considering the idea of their being a community service. The former court in Stafford is to be a car park.
Finally there is the sad and sorry case of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. As a parent when my son was a toddler or younger and I needed petrol I would carry him into the station when I went to pay; he was never left alone for a a single minute in such or similar circumstances. Unfortunately the McCanns did not apply the same caution that summer evening when they went for dinner in Portugal. I can only imagine the torture they endure every single day. However there must come a time when her death is assumed and that it becomes a cold case murder investigation. However it seems that the Metropolitan Police is continuing to pursue the matter with five full time investigating officers. It has been estimated that £12 million has so far been spent on the investigation. One wonders whether this has been the most suitable allocation for limited resources.
It seems that unlike the religious devotion to OUR NHS the justice system in all its tarnished glory is considered to be allocated funding where the losses are minimised. So politicians bask in the reflected glory of often foreign billionaires` legal battles in the civil and matrimonial courts whilst the county and magistrates court systems are left to function in a manner which is detrimental to those ordinary people who rely on public funds for justice.
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