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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.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, 9 December 2016
Perhaps they should admit defeat taking the lesson of Clochmerle (published in France 1934 and BBC TV 1972) in how not to proceed and provide 24 hour facilities for their fellow citizens instead of the superficial satisfaction of such slippery sanctions.
Thursday, 8 December 2016
"The complexity of the challenges police officers face means that their leaders need to set the highest standards of integrity, honesty and objectivity if they are to be trusted and respected by the public. You hold positions of great authority. You have to sustain public confidence. You hold the police to account and it is up to you to demonstrate by example and live by high ethical standards".
Wednesday, 7 December 2016
Oliver Heald The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice
(a) Since 1st April 2016 to date, there have been 842 resignations
(b) During the financial year 2015/16, there were 952 resignations
(c) Since 1st April 2010 to date, there were 8,253 resignations
Latest figures show that in April 2016 there were 17,552 serving magistrates of which 57% were aged 60 and over. Resignations, however, are not retirements. In 2010 there were 26,970 serving magistrates. In most business activities so called human resources officers would have immediate responses to such a rapid decline in participation and plans would be in hand to investigate and conclude as to what remedies if any were required in the situation. My opinion for what it`s worth is that deep in the bowels of Petty France London SW1 such plans are indeed being considered. Magistrates have resigned in line with the closure of over one third of the magistrates` courts in England and Wales. Increased travelling time for the millions of willing and reluctant participants in court procedures has not held any sway with arguments for retaining local courts especially in rural areas such as North Wales and Cumbria. But J.P.s have voted with their feet, their cars or on public transport. They have not been prepared to spend an hour or more travelling each way as members of an enlarged bench to a distant court building. Many do not relish the prospect of being super social workers in the name of rehabilitative justice; a prospect that the MOJ is holding out as an answer to overcrowded prisons. They certainly have found the attitude of HMCTS in treating them as unpaid employees not to their liking. Indeed the removal of any sense of being independent local Justices dispensing local justice in local courts whilst attractive perhaps to supercilious lawyers and greasy pole climbing Justices` Clerks has had much to do with the disillusionment felt by so many of my ex colleagues.
Sad to say we are seeing the last decade of magistrates` courts as they have developed since the 14th Century with local worthies independent and unpaid, generally ethnically representative of their communities being replaced by courts over which preside single professional judges beholden to the state for their salaries and pensions.
Tuesday, 6 December 2016
Today the Scunthorpe Telegraph reported the following case from North Lincolnshire Magistrates` Court:- " SIMONAS MILIAUSKAS , 26, of Frodingham Road, Scunthorpe, pleaded guilty to driving while using a hand-held mobile phone, using a vehicle without insurance and driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence. He was fined a total of £400, ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £40, costs of £85 and his driving record was endorsed with six points."
This is as perfect example of the totality principle as could be imagined. It demonstrates IMHO just why sometimes advice from Justices` Clerks is completely out of touch with reality and why they and their political masters are forever seeking approval from media as I posted yesterday on proposals to increase sentences for the most serious driving offences when they well know that in fact time served by those who will be caught in this new legal net will be similar to the current situation.
Monday, 5 December 2016
In 2015, 122 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving, with a further 21 convicted of causing death by careless driving while under the influence. Relevant sentences for driving offences are as below:-
To quote from The Guardian,
"Dangerous drivers who kill are set to face life sentences under plans put forward by ministers. Those causing death by speeding, street racing or while using a mobile phone will face the same sentences as people charged with manslaughter.
Offenders who cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs could also be handed life sentences – an increase on the current 14-year upper limit."
I really cannot perceive any basis for this proposed increase in sentencing except to pander to public opinion which IMHO is based upon ignorance and a desire of some newspapers to whip up that opinion.
Friday, 2 December 2016
Thursday, 1 December 2016
LCJ has now pronounced on the McKenzie friends issue; a situation brought about directly by the unavailability of legal aid for thousands of defendants in the criminal courts and litigants in the family courts. I last commented on this topic in October. It is generally accepted that at least for the present senior judges should avoid becoming involved in matters political. But must we always wait until such an individual is retired on his/her substantial pension and feels free to hit the headlines with what might or might not be subject matter long overdue for discussion in the public sphere? Sooner or later especially in the light of controversy over Article 50 judges must be told to shut up or be allowed to comment under agreed strict conditions. The current noises off when judges skate on political and judicial thin ice are not a healthy way to continue.
Wednesday, 30 November 2016
When the next scandal at Scotland Yard hits the headlines as it surely will perhaps the Home Secretary will take seriously public lack of confidence in policing.
Tuesday, 29 November 2016
Friday, 25 November 2016
Thursday, 24 November 2016
The ages old proverb of giving the devil a finger and he`ll take the whole hand is nowhere to be excelled by British police chiefs. The rather loose wording of the rules has been employed recently by Cleveland Constabulary in the case of former PC Kelly Jarvis. A spokesweasel from the force was quoted as saying, " In some cases officers are allowed to resign prior to a misconduct hearing where there are exceptional circumstances. "This is one of those cases where there are exceptional circumstances and after careful consideration the officer has been allowed to resign.”
At a time in our history when "experts" have been discredited, when the risk of many sources of terrorism is increasing, when public failures of police investigations and subsequent cover ups are regular news items, when multi millionaires finance attempts to curb a free press it is nothing less than essential that so called police chiefs do more than merely pay lip service to being open to the public on all aspects of their responsibilities.
Wednesday, 23 November 2016
Tuesday, 22 November 2016
Monday, 21 November 2016
To the general reader this is another stick in the armoury of the Howard League with which to beat magistrates. Truly it is the Justices Clerk Society`s responsibility. This begs the question as to what is exactly this so called "society". It has no web site. It sits under an umbrella site The Public Affairs Company where it is described as "The Professional Society for lawyers who advise magistrates". There appears to be no public record of its activities. There is no doubt this appears to be a shadowy some might say a shady quasi committee of around twenty five senior civil servants with enormous but poorly regulated power. And as with similar such groupings it makes sure when the fan is struck by fecal matter its name and purpose remain unsullied.
Friday, 18 November 2016
"Sir Norman Bettison has published his account of the Hillsborough tragedy, from witnessing the horror first hand to the still ongoing criminal investigations, including new details of what went on in the aftermath of the disaster.
Twenty-seven years have passed and no one has asked Sir Norman Bettison – the man who symbolises the now accepted narrative of a cover-up over Hillsborough, what he saw on that fateful day on April 15, 1989.
Not even the inquests at which he gave testimony, inquests inquiring into the cause of death of the 96 victims.
Sir Norman Bettison publishes his account today (November 17) in Hillsborough Untold, knowing it will be pored over for any suggestion from him that Liverpool supporters were to blame for the crush on the terraces.
Police Professional can reveal that the book makes no such claim, aside from a brief mention of evidence given by Merseyside Police mounted officers who witnessed a number not helping the situation.
Sir Norman gets to finally say how he went from spectator to witness, to become involved in the recovery exercise and then part of the ‘Wain team’ that submitted evidence to lawyers acting for the force, for which he has been labelled part of a ‘black propaganda unit’.
When, at the latest inquests, he began to be questioned on what he saw on that spring day, the coroner directed the barrister’s contribution away from the event itself.
Sir Norman begins the book by describing how he came to have a seat at the Liverpool v Nottingham Forest FA Cup semi-final and talks of the moment his “emergency procedure training kicked in”, and eventually witnessing the identification of victims as they lay in vast rows in the temporary mortuary.
It is extremely surprising his account has never been sought by any inquiry before.
South Yorkshire Police has since been accused, using parliamentary privilege, of being “rotten to the core” for its alleged portrayal of supporters’ behaviour.
In 12 days leading up to Lord Justice Taylor’s inquiry, remarkably held just one month after the tragedy, Sir Norman explains how a team of officers under Chief Superintendent Terry Wain gathered officers’ accounts.
A major aspect of then Chief Inspector Bettison’s junior management role in the team was to summarise 81 accounts selected to provide “the most objective evidence”. He describes this summary and what was to become known as the Wain Report as internal assessments commissioned by lawyers. However, he claims they show that no blame was being put onto the fans.
In his summary, under the heading ‘Behaviour of supporters’, Sir Norman says any reports of unruly behaviour was limited to a relatively small minority of spectators.
He claims not to have witnessed any accounts being altered but they were an analysis of the evidence that officers were able to give and not an attempt to put blame onto fans. They contained “expressions of emotion and intemperate language” – not the basis of statements for the purpose of an investigation.
Sir Norman explains the process that was initiated by lawyers to make the accounts suitable for the purpose they were to be used, removing matters of opinion, for example.
He went on to become one of the most senior police officers in the country, including a spell as chief constable of Merseyside Police, an appointment that was almost prevented when local MP Maria Eagle first denounced the Wain team as a ‘black propaganda unit’ using parliamentary privilege.
Later, as chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, the accusations over Sir Norman’s role after the disaster resurfaced with the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s 2012 report.
It led to a referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and eventually to his early resignation. The book details the political wrangling that led to the police authority to call for him to step down, in an attempt to head off controversy ahead of police and crime commissioner elections.
He deals with the several accusations that have been levelled against him, such as the one made by a fellow MBA student, someone who gave money to the Hillsborough campaign, claiming Sir Norman boasted of his role in concocting evidence that drunken Liverpool fans were to blame. The dates given by this witness clearly dispel his assertion, he says.
Sir Norman is also critical of the stance taken by the IPCC, accusing it of conducting a “pedestrian and unstructured” criminal investigation since 2012.
And he publishes details of emails that, he claims, show its deputy chair had a report rewritten and findings changed to show he was guilty of gross misconduct by interfering in his police authority’s decision.
Sir Norman says there were many factors at play in the disaster, just as it was more than a captain of a ship and an iceberg that led to the sinking of the Titanic, coincidentally on April 15. The Hillsborough stadium furniture, notably fences erected to segregate fans and prevent pitch invasions, severely hindered the escape of those who were crushed on the terrace.
The decision to allocate just 23 (28 per cent) of turnstiles – with a flow rate known to be 750 per hour – to the 24,756 Liverpool supporters meant they would never have entered the stadium in time for kick-off.
But he does not minimise the five minutes of indecision by the match commander, former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, who approved the opening of Gate C of Leppings Lane end to relieve the crush outside the ground.
“I knew nothing of the decision that was being made, at that precise moment, to open a concertina exit gate and allow 2,000 more people to stream in, unmanaged and undirected, to join the throng on the terraces behind the goal.
“The ultimate question as to culpability for the deaths in the spring sunshine at Hillsborough is right here.”