Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.




Comments are usually moderated. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment. If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Friday, 26 August 2016

WHO RUNS THE PRISONS?



There are four constituent parts of any criminal justice system, the process of catching suspected offenders, charging and convicting them in the courts, incarcerating them in prisons where it is hoped that many can be rehabilitated. The first two components consist of many people with corresponding checks and balances to ensure justice is done with fairness to all and is seen to be thus done. However when it comes to the running of prisons in general the governor is "king" and almost but not quite an absolute monarch. Controversy erupts from time to time when it is revealed that governors have power and were using that power to release prisoners far sooner than anybody had authorised. 


If prison governors are "kings" then prison warders are the "nobles" and as we learn in history kings and nobles were often in conflict as to where the power would lie. In prison it is forbidden for inmates to possess or use mobile phones, drugs, or to use networking sites. So there is no drug problem in jails.....? no criminal activity involving mobile phone contact between convicts and the outside world.....? It is a fact that inmates are using Facebook to further their criminal activities whilst inside and to promote their violent actions inside.

It has been said by many with knowledge that the Prison Officers Union is the last bastion of left wing union extremism where union power and not the management is in control of the work place . Similarly it has been said that whilst drugs are illegal if they were totally excluded from jails there would be serious riots with the result that to a certain extent a blind eye is turned to the illegal supply in prisons. If using Facebook is contrary to prison rules how does a dangerous inmate access it without the knowledge of those paid to keep him secure and out of contact with the public at large?

Continuing shortfalls in the rehabilitation of offenders and efforts to overcome this deficit are endemic.  Whether this government led by a former Home Secretary can do any better is a moot point. 


Thursday, 25 August 2016

LEGALLY IT REALLY IS G.B. & NORTHERN IRELAND

Over the years seeking interesting matters for this blog I`ve become aware that not for nothing is the term for our nation The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  The province has its own legislation for many offences which can differ from that in England & Wales never mind Scotland; the other part of Great Britain.  Abortion, or the forbidding of,  is perhaps where the legal treatment differs to the greatest extent.  But I have noticed from time to time quite significant variations in the treatment of motoring offenders although the local guideline for no insurance is as G.B.

District Judges rule the lower courts system.  Their decisions on sentencing have appeared to me as a distant observer with only news reports to go on to be occasionally arbitrary.Giving a driver a four week ban when he already had six points on his license as in this case, if heard in England, would have had the legal advisor to a bench gently reminding magistrates of the accepted protocol that he be given 6 - 8 points  and treated as a totter with an immediate mandatory disqualification of six months.  Just goes to show that the Irish north or south of the border are a law unto themselvers.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

MP`s PLEA TO IMPRISON ALL WHO ASSAULT POLICE

On July 29th I posted on the Police Federation of Northern Ireland`s demand for mandatory custodial sentences for those convicted of assault on their members.  The problem is  the definition of what action(s) constitute(s) an assault.  Some definitions are:-

This is any act by which a person intentionally or recklessly causes another to apprehend immediate unlawful violence. Such an act must be with the intent being calculated in that persons mind to cause apprehension or fear in the mind of the victim. Therefore, where there is no intent, there will be not be an assault, UNLESS, that the person who assaulted another, ( and it was conclusive by way of evidence), that the person was indeed reckless as to the other person would in all probability have indeed apprehended that immediate unlawful violence would be used.

 An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm. It is both a crime and a tort and, therefore, may result in either criminal and/or civil liability. Generally, the common law definition is the same in criminal and tort law.

A further  refined legal analysis of assault can be found here.  

The fact is that every J.P. and criminal  lawyer knows that police officers in the main will seek every opportunity to bring a common assault charge against an individual with whom they are in hot verbal and non violent exchanges when they are frustrated that they cannot impose their will.  Obstruction of a police officer in the course of his duty is another all embracing favourite when commands legitimate or as is often the case illegitimate are not obeyed. 

Protection of police officers in the course of their duty is a very easy bandwagon for an MP of only one year`s seniority  to pursue.  And Holly Lynch appears to be one of that ilk.  This type of populist appeal by Labour is in line with its Corbynistic policy of rule by the people......read mob. It should be resisted in general and the proposed madatory jail for police assault  in particular notwithstanding an overriding policy of reducing the prison population.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

HARM INDEX IS HARMFUL

This blog along with many more authoritative sources has long been sceptical of so called crime statistics.  The use of tick box mentality of recording has long been questioned.  To the despair of many that methodology is so widespread it is endemic among both government and non governmental organisations; the Sentencing Guidelines produced for magistrates and judges  are a perfect example. This "bible" of sentencing attempts to categorise sentences by a combination of harm to the supposed victim and culpability of offender.  And now a "crime harm index" is to be deployed by police to classify the significance of different offences taking into account the number of offenders jailed for the crime including violence, knife and gun crime and the average sentences imposed.  Considering that about 95% of all crime that comes to a court begins and ends in magistrates` courts  with six months custody maximum it is likely that effects of inevitable prioritisation by police will be based on crown court statistics of the remaining 5%. An additional (overlooked?) factor seems to be the designation and weight to be given to suspended sentences where the decision to suspend custody is based primarily on an assessment of the offender as opposed to the effects of the crime itself.  An additional flaw IMHO is that people, I dislike the term so commonly used and abused, victims,   invariably do not have similar or common reactions to the crime inflicted upon them. There are those who can put the experience, however traumatic, behind them and those who wallow in their own misfortune over the most minor transgression to their property, person or psyche. 

It is almost certain that police will use this new indexation to target their diminishing resources and will inevitably issue so called statistical evidence to justify their so called efficiency.  Such activity distorts that which is itself being measured whether it`s GCSE and A Level results or an indication of a hospital`s ability to deal with its workload.  This blogger will need some convincing that this harm index is less than harmful to public accountability of police. 

Monday, 22 August 2016

RISK OF SEXUAL HARM NOTICE//MIRTH IN THE MAKING part 3

The saga of the sadomasochist who is under a police notice to tell them 24 hours in advance of his proposed sexual activity  continues  from the first mention here on January 25th.  A follow up was posted on June 9th.  Whatever the legal niceties where the angels on the pinhead have been well and truly counted the current state of affairs in this matter appears to be a blight on any meaning of the term "justice".

The District Judge ruled that the terms of the ban imposing a 24 hour notice period were disproportionate but that nevertheless the order will not be reviewed until a further hearing on September 22nd.  This individual might not be the man that the father of the bride might wish for a son in law but he was found not guilty at a trial for rape.  Even so police branded him as "a very dangerous individual".  In my naivety I did not think that such actions could take place in this country.  After all this is not Turkey of "Midnight Express" or Russia under a repressive regime or  Czechoslovakia during the time of Franz Kafka. This is England in 2016.  What have we become?  Where are we going?

Friday, 19 August 2016

POLICE BIG SHOTS GET AWAY WITH IT AGAIN!

On June 10th I first posted on a certain Maxine de Brunner. It was July 19th when I last posted on her antics. At that time she was referred to as Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine de Brunner; not any more.  This person has a history of being a disgrace to that most senior uniform she wore to serve her own vanity and aggrandisement. Recently after her arrogance finally provoked action from the Met. Commissioner she has been allowed to retire, presumably on her maximum taxpayer funded pension, without any official internal action against her despite recent government guidelines to the contrary.  It appears that there is now a slight change in wording of the regulations from allowing a twelve month window after retirement when charges could be brought  to let that period be extended “in exceptional circumstances”. It seems that her boss has once again protected one of his "own" in preference to acting for the public good.

Actions of misconduct to a lesser or usually greater degree of senior cops over the last few years directly impinge upon the public`s confidence in authority in general including government.  They also reduce the respect in which senior police officers are held by their subordinates. Police and Crime Commissioners were established inter alia for just such purposes.  Apparently the current Commissioner after previous ill judged actions is in his last year of office.  The Home Secretary should seek his replacement from a totally different box from whence her predecessor chose Hogan-Howe. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

AFTER THE CIRCUS OF GOLD MEDALS WE`LL RETURN TO REALITY



It is gratifying to note that amongst the hysteria of gold medals at the Olympic circus damning observations of courts` efficiencies or lack of them are becoming increasingly frequent. This will cause a certain discomfort where it is overdue. It has taken some years for the inevitable daily problems in our courtrooms of which every court practitioner is only too well aware to become the stuff of media comment. The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons report in May highlighted the continuing breakdown in the courts` system.  Since the coalition`s 23%  budget reduction for "Justice" in 2010 and annual reductions since then it was hardly rocket science to predict that back room "reorganisations" would soon percolate to the actual courtroom. The oft repeated comments by the Tory government and its lackeys that reducing inter alia police numbers, courts, legal aid provision, CPS lawyers and interpreter services as a result of all these budget cuts could be overcome by increased efficiency has been shown for what it is; a rash decision with no consideration for the future of our justice system.

What a blessing it is for government every four years when news headlines of gold medals  displace stories of political and market turmoil:a modern example of  following  Nero`s initiative of the circus to distract the plebs. At least this time the cost paid was  for the agrandisement of a fallen Brazilian president and not for the vanity of an erzatz political chamelion who felt the hand of history on his shoulder.

Although Mrs May might be going for gold in the Brexit negotiations current problems are not the end of the decline in judicial services still to come. Anybody who thinks otherwise is in for surprises or shocks depending on their support for current policies.

Monday, 15 August 2016

TO ARREST OR NOT TO ARREST? THAT IS THE QUESTION

"Have you ever been arrested?"  Not an everyday sort of question but exactly the sort of question that can be on an application form for eg some types of insurance, a job, a visa or another inquiry where personal integrity is a pre requisite.  This is not so surprising as there has to be a prima facia case of law breaking. To quote the appropriate government website, "To arrest you the police need reasonable grounds to suspect you’re involved in a crime for which your arrest is necessary." According to Citizens` Advice..........

 

When can the police arrest you

Police can arrest you if they have a valid arrest warrant. There are also some situations where they can arrest you without a warrant. These are where:
  • you are in the act of committing certain offences
  • they have reasonable grounds for suspecting you are committing certain offences
  • they have reasonable grounds for suspecting you have committed certain offences
  • you are about to commit certain offences
  • they have reasonable grounds for suspecting you are about to commit certain offences.
The police can also arrest you if they have reasonable grounds for suspecting you have committed or attempted to commit any offence, or if you are committing or attempting to commit any offence, but it is impractical or inappropriate to serve a summons. However, they can only do this if one of the following conditions applies:
  • they do not know, and cannot get, your name
  • they think you have given a false name
  • you have not given a satisfactory address. This means an address where the police can contact you
  • they think you have given a false address
  • the arrest is necessary to prevent you causing physical injury to yourself or others, suffering physical injury, causing loss or damage to property, committing an offence against public decency, or causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway
  • they have reasonable grounds for believing that arrest is necessary to protect a child or other vulnerable person. 
So  far so clear.............However when a former Chief Constable admits that she told officers to "arrest first" and investigate later when dealing with rape cases one has to be concerned.  Presumably this instruction was based on the notion that victims have always to be believed in the first instance; a policy which, thankfully, is beginning to be perceived as misguided at best and oppressive at worst.  

Such was the operating procedure of the recent incumbent as Surrey Chief Constable.  Whether or not similar orders are still operating under the new Chief of that force cannot be ascertained from its website. That former Chief Constable now heads the National Crime Agency where as is the fashion all major departments are now "commands". On May 16th she made what I presume was her policy speech  in her new post.  In her opening she included ,"How do we build public confidence and avoid appearing distant from the public? And how can we ensure that we are always acting with the public’s consent?

My answer to her questions would be to admit that her policy in Surrey was flawed. 

Friday, 12 August 2016

JUDGE SWEARS TO ENFORCE THE LAW

Following on from yesterday's`s post about the crown court judge who responded to a defendant`s volley of four letter insults with a backhand return worthy of the centre court at Wimbledon it appears, surprise surprise, that a complaint has been served  at the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.  No doubt this is but the opening  in a prolonged contest.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

LEST YE BE JUDGED

I have opined previously that magistrates are more likely to feel the wrath of authority for perceived minor infractions than their full time brethren.  What would happen if a J.P. swore at a defendant in court  doesn`t bear thinking about.  So it will be interesting to find out if a complaint is made to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office concerning HH Patricia Lynch QC and her robust response at Chelmsford Crown Court in the face off what can only be described as abusive language from a low life scum.  The newspaper headlines themselves might be enough for her to be asked questions. What I do know is that if a magistrate responded similarly s/he would be lucky if the JCIO merely issued a reprimand.