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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. 


Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Not surprisingly this page is usually used to air problems, grievances, histories etc of matters  normally associated with magistrates courts and/or their users. Generally matters of law are beyond the competence of the blogger and best left to those who are more qualified to comment.  However there are from time to time matters where the principle underlying that law or decision can be open to comment to any thinking member of the public.  Such a situation arose last week with the lurid headlines in most of the press of the victims` lobby denouncing new police procedures when there is an accusation of rape.  During my time on the bench I have seen the rise and rise of this lobby to such an extent that the impartiality of our legal system can rightly be called into question. On the issue of rape this has had a profound effect on the manner in which complainants (pre a guilty verdict the "victim" is a complainant), have been and are treated.  Whilst there is little doubt that in the past such people have been less than justly...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
I have long opined that an unsaid policy of the Ministry of Justice is that the role of Justices of the Peace should be in managed long term decline in order that government would have  total control of the court process. In the last decade JPs` numbers have halved to around 15,000. District Judges(MC) numbers have been fairly constant over the last five years at around 115 with a slightly greater number of part time Deputy DJs. The argument that such an opinion is misguided is usually based upon the vastly greater costs of employing professional judges, ie DJs. The official statistics of the comparable costs are tabled below. 

These numbers, however, have a hidden story. Taking the 2017-18 figure for DJs alone £22,012,824 simple arithmetic results in a cost per DJ of £194,803. Now consider that the current salary of a DJ is £110,335 with an additional payment of £8,000 p/a for London appointments and that the MOJ contributes around £8,000 towards the DJ`s pension. DJs must devote a minimum of 215...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Every day thousands of cases hit the magistrates courts. This observer can generally comment only on what reaches the public domain although from time to time information is available from other sources. In the former category I noticed this week two examples of what I believe are real but subtle changes in how we ie the law, treats miscreants at the lower level of harm.

Freedom of expression is perhaps the most basic of all our "freedoms".  And most importantly freedom to express that which others might find objectionable is arguably one of the most difficult areas in law as to where the line of freedom  is drawn that one person`s freedom is another`s hurt feelings or worse.  The laws of slander and libel have developed over the decades to cope with social media but many cases are much less clear cut than those which involve wealthy corporations and whistle blowers. 

Earlier this week Southark News reported that "A man from South Norwood has been charged after a video of a burning cardboard model of Grenfell...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
Every magistrate will have had his/her own experiences of excuses offered by those defending a charge of using a mobile phone when driving.  Such a  driver convicted of using a mobile phone whilst driving has been given leave to appeal his conviction at Willesden Magistrates Court and a subsequent upholding of that conviction at the crown court.  The High Court will consider the matter: should be interesting. 


Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
I have long advocated here and elsewhere that offending drug users should be removed from the court pathway and transferred willingly or otherwise to a medical pathway where they can be treated for their addiction under lock and key until it is considered that they are no longer dependant. These institutions I have described as workhouses for a modern age. To view such posts type "workhouse" in the search box.

It seems that the Sentencing Council in its wisdom has made wide sweeping changes in its Guidelines for sentencers of addicts (and others).  This is a promising start for such cases.  Around 70% of violent and/or acquisitive crime is committed by addicts. Police have more or less washed their hands in pursuing cannabis possession for own use.  It is only a matter of time until contrary to the opinions of some outspoken right wing so called thinkers a format will be achieved to remove cannabis possession from the criminal law.  Until such time those responsible for our judicial system like its political...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace

Talking to an old friend from my court some weeks ago she remarked that compared to her early days on the bench in the 1980s rarely had she had sex workers before her in recent years. Changes in many attitudes in the last thirty years have certainly been enlightening and generally for the public good.

Magistrates, however, still hear from many fellow citizens about those slices of the bread of life that are obscured in wrappers .

I well remember that such was the case of Geoff M. He was twenty two years old, evenly tanned, well built and had, according to both my female middle aged colleagues, the looks of a man who could do certain things to the female body.The lady to my left referred to him as a Richard Gere lookalike in the film American Gigolo. We noted that he lived at the most expensive block in the most expensive road in the most expensive suburb of town. Magistrates must have local knowledge to function efficiently. That being said he was before us on a charge of affray to which he had pleaded guilty. We decided to fine him...

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Written by RSS Poster The Justice of the Peace
I make no apology that the last two posts here have been about short custodial and suspended sentences and that this is another.  My underlying theme and main concern is that our masters, in their attempts to convince us that most offenders will respond to the myriad rehabilitative programmes that are offered by a demoralised and failing probation service the efficiency of which has been decimated by the Ministry of Justice, have failed us. The result of the public`s increasing lack of confidence in sentences which are simply inadequate for the crimes committed will be a lack of confidence in the justice system per se.  In light of the disquiet on so many aspects of the Brexit shambles this would be another nail, small but effective, in our overall democratic system of government.  Such sentencing decisions are taking place every day in every court in the country. I can only offer a few examples as they appear in front of me. This is another example of what I consider a complete disregard for public protection and is a further instance of the courts being brought into disrepute. 

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