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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.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 May 2017

NO HONOUR IN PUBLIC OFFICE

Honour:- the quality of knowing and doing what is morally right.  The meaning has been distorted by many people on many occasions to justify deeds which were anything but honourable. But taking the word at its original and sometimes still current definition its application to those in public office has steadily declined over the decades since 1945.  That decline could arguably be one of the many reasons why public faith in those in public office has diminished.  When demonstrably aberrant behaviour is revealed within senior figures connected with the NHS or justice system especially in or connected to police forces an irreparable chipping away of pubic confidence is inevitable. Scandals within the recently established Scottish Police are a perfect example of the rot which has eaten away that confidence. The latest episode is the refusal of the Scottish Police Authority chair Andrew Flanagan to resign after revelations of his reprehensible activities as a senior public figure.  

There seems to be no concept of right and wrong. Perhaps with the decline of an ethical attitude to society based upon Judae Christian principles no satisfactory substitute has been effective.


Thursday, 25 May 2017

ONE LAW FOR HIS HONOUR AND ANOTHER FOR J.P.s

With many others I have long been aware that when it suits the MOJ J.P.s are certainly considered an important part of the judiciary and must be treated as such.  When it comes to a perceived breaking or bending of the myriad rules imposed on that same judiciary J.P.s are certainly considered a species apart.  Records of disciplinary action taken against J.P.s reveal a distinct tightening of supposed judicial boundaries when compared to judges. In the last few days three highly publicised incidents where offenders and sentencers; one lay bench and two crown court judges,  were involved in cross court comment illustrate my opinion that there is one law for them (judges) and another for us (magistrates).

Before Norfolk magistrates a foul mouthed female offender left the court unhindered by anything as direct as a charge of contempt and a cooling off period behind bars as should have been applied by a bench which had more tolerance than good sense and none for public perceptions.  In contrast a crown court judge in sentencing a female who had misused a company credit card to the tune of £38,000 gave her eighteen months custody suspended for two years made the following comment, "I hate sending women to prison."  Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the sentence HH`s words demean the status of acting "without fear or prejudice".  Substitute Gays or Lesbians or Jews or Muslims or Plymouth Brethren or what have you for "women" and the problem created is unmistakable. But make no mistake; if a magistrate had given such a reason there would have been an investigation.  And finally a judge sent into custody an offender who called him "mate".  I doubt whether if the DJ`s arrogance had been displayed by a magistrate it would have gone unheeded by those in the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.  

As the old adage says; there`s one law for them and another law for us.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

PLEASE BECOME A J.P.

Pleas for applications to become a magistrate seem to be appearing in increasing frequency in local print media.  Generally they are merely cut and paste portions from official requirements on MOJ website and perhaps some others. Earlier this week the Manchester Evening News published yet another such plea basing its headline on the dire consequences if the current JP scarcity is not reversed. But this time the usual verbiage was supplemented by detailed opinions and observations from senior magistrates in the area.  Those ex colleagues quoted are to be congratulated.  

Application form

*Instructions for completion and return of this form
Please complete all relevant sections of the form.  Failure to do so could lead to your application being rejected.
Where applicable, click on the relevant box to place a cross in that box.
Where text is required, type your answers into the form fields. These will expand as you type
until they fill the box. Please use Arial font size 11. 
If a question does not apply to you, please mark it N/A (not applicable). Do not leave the space blank.
Completion of Appendix A (Diversity Monitoring Form) is not mandatory.
Completion of Appendix B (Referees) is mandatory.
Please send your completed application to the relevant advisory committee by email or post. If sending by post, please ensure the printed copy is fully legible and do not send photocopies. 
Contact the advisory committee if you have any questions about completing your application. 
A list of advisory committees and contact details can be found at Appendix A of Becoming a Magistrate in England and Wales – Guidance for Prospective Applicants (link below).
You should find it helpful to have a copy of the Guidance with you when you complete your application.

 
This document is produced and maintained by:
Magistrates HR
Judicial Office
10th Floor, Thomas More Building
Royal Courts of Justice
Strand
London
WC2A 2LL

1.   PRE-APPLICATION CHECKLIST
Please read the booklet ‘Becoming a Magistrate in England and Wales – Guidance for Prospective Applicants’ in full before starting your application.
You must complete the following checklist before submitting your application.  If you do not complete the checklist, your application is liable to be rejected. 
I have read the Guidance for Prospective Applicants in full.
I have checked to ensure that recruitment is taking place in my local area.
Refer to page 5 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
I understand that applicants are expected to be living or working in, or reasonably close to, the area in which they wish to serve.
Refer to page 5 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
I understand that, if called for interview, I will be required to demonstrate that I have a good knowledge and understanding of social issues in the local area, in particular the causes and effects of crime.
Refer to pages 5 and 14 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
I understand that magistrates are required to sit for at least 13 full days per year (or 26 half days).  I also understand that I will be required to attend training and occasional meetings after court.  I confirm that I am able to meet this commitment. 
Refer to page 8 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
I am in employment and have obtained my employer’s agreement to take the necessary time off work if I am appointed.
Refer to page 9 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.  (Leave blank if not in employment and see below)
I am not in employment.
I have undertaken at least one visit to a magistrates’ court in the six months prior to making my application.
Refer to page 9 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
The people I intend to nominate as referees have agreed to provide a reference and I understand that if references are not provided by the required date my application could be rejected.
Refer to page 13 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.

2.   PRELIMINARY INFORMATION
Applicants are expected to be living or working in, or reasonably close to, the area in which they wish to serve. 
Refer to page 5 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
Please state the name of the advisory committee whose recruitment exercise you are applying for:
Advisory Committee
     
If you have a preference to sit at a particular magistrates’ court (or courts) within the local area, indicate them below.  Please note that we cannot guarantee to meet your preference(s):
Preferred court(s)
     
     
     
How did you become aware of the vacancies for which you are applying?
     
Only answer the next question if you are applying for vacancies in Wales.
Refer to page 12 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
If the area to which you are applying has vacancies for bilingual magistrates, please indicate below if you would like to be considered for those vacancies:
  Yes
  No
All applicants must have visited a magistrates’ court to observe the proceedings, at least once, preferably two or three times, before submitting an application.
Refer to page 9 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
Please provide the names of the courts you have visited in connection with your application and the dates of your visits.
Name of magistrates’ court
     
Date
D       M      Year         
Name of magistrates’ court
     
Date
D       M      Year         
Name of magistrates’ court
     
Date
D       M      Year         
We need to know if you have previously applied to become a magistrate.
Refer to page 10 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
Have you previously applied to become a magistrate?
  Yes
  No
If you answered yes, please give details of when you made your application, to which advisory committee, and the outcome of your application.
     
The Magistrates’ Association represents approximately 80% of magistrates in England and Wales. Information about the Magistrates’ Association is available at:  www.magistrates-association.org.uk/
If you are appointed, may we pass your details (name, address, date of birth and local justice area) to the Magistrates’ Association, so that they can contact you about the Association and about training?
  Yes
  No
Your details will not be disclosed without your permission and will not be passed to any other organisation.

3.   PERSONAL INFORMATION

                      

  Mr
  Miss
  Ms
  Mrs
  Dr
  Other (please state)
     
Surname
     
Forename(s)
     
Previous surname (if any)
     
Date of birth
D       M      Year         
Home address (including post code)
     
     
     
     
     
     
Telephone
Home       
Work        
Mobile      
Contact email
     
Nationality
     
Country of birth
     
     
4.   DIVERSITY MONITORING INFORMATION
Please refer to Appendix A below.
5.   QUALIFICATIONS
No formal qualifications are required to become a magistrate.  This information is requested to give some background about applicants. It will not be taken into account in assessing suitability for appointment. 
Provide a brief summary of your educational and any other significant qualifications (e.g. professional qualifications):
     
6.   EMPLOYMENT HISTORY
Certain occupations (including past occupations) may affect your eligibility to serve as a magistrate. 
Refer to page 8 and Appendix D of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
Please provide full information about your employment status and history:
Employment status 
  Employed
  Self-employed
  Retired
  Not in paid employment
  Other (please state)
     
Current occupation (if applicable)
     
Brief description of work
     
Time with employer
     
Is the role?
 Full Time
  Part Time
   Hours per week
  Fixed Term (end date)
D       M      Year         








Please confirm that you have discussed your intention to apply to become a magistrate with your employer and have their agreement to take the necessary time off work if you are appointed.
     
Please give details of any other occupations in which you have been employed in the last ten years, starting with the most recent:
Occupation
Employer
From
To
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
In limited cases, the occupation of a spouse, partner or close relative may affect your eligibility.
Refer to page 8 and Appendix D of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
Is your spouse/partner in any form of employment?
  Yes (Please state their occupation)
     
  No
 Not applicable



Has your spouse, partner or a close relative worked as any of the following - Police Officer, Special Constable, Police Community Support Officer, civilian employee of a police force, Traffic Warden, Crown Prosecution Service or Prison Service employee, or in any other occupation whose work involves attending court?
   Yes (see below)
  No
 Not applicable
If you answered yes above, please describe the person’s (or persons’) relationship to you, their occupation, where it is (or was) carried out, and their approximate dates of employment:
  
     
7.   REFERENCES
All applicants must provide the names of three people who have agreed to act as referees.  Please complete Appendix B below.
Refer to page 13 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
8.   REASONS FOR APPLYING TO BECOME A MAGISTRATE AND PERSONAL QUALITIES
Please explain what motivated you to apply to become a magistrate:
     
The six key qualities required of all magistrates are: Good Character; Understanding and Communication; Social Awareness; Maturity and Sound Temperament; Sound Judgement; Commitment and Reliability.
Refer to Appendix C of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
Please explain how you believe you meet the six key qualities.  If possible, give examples of how you have demonstrated these qualities through your work and/or in other areas of your life: 
     
Please provide a brief description of any voluntary work you are currently doing or have done in the past:
  
     
Please provide a brief description of any hobbies / recreational activities in your spare time:
     
9.   CONVICTIONS AND ORDERS
 
The Senior Presiding Judge will not appoint anyone in whom the public would be unlikely to have confidence.
A civil matter or a minor criminal matter in the past will not necessarily disqualify you from appointment. 
If your application is successful, the Disclosure and Barring Service will carry out an enhanced level criminal record check on you.
You must disclose all relevant matters, including motoring offences, on your application form.  When disclosing motoring offences include the number of penalty points and the amount of any fine. 
Refer to pages 6 and 7 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence?
  Yes (see below)
  No
If you answered yes above, please provide full information below. You must disclose all relevant matters, regardless of when they occurred: 
Offence
Conviction, Penalty or Order
Court
Date of Conviction
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
Provide details of any civil proceedings to which you, or any company of which you are director, have been a party. Include details of any bankruptcy and/or maintenance orders, whether against you or in your favour:
  
Nature of Proceedings
Order
Court
Date of Order
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
Are you currently involved in any form of legal proceedings; for example as a party to the proceedings or as a witness?
  Yes (see below)
  No
If you answered yes above, please describe the nature of the proceedings and your involvement:
  
     
Excluding any information provided above, is there anything in your private or working life, past or present, which could damage your credibility as a magistrate if it became known to the public?
  Yes (see below)
  No
If you answered yes above, please provide further information:
  
     
10.       DECLARATION
The information that I have given in this application is true and complete to the best of my knowledge and belief. I understand that my application is liable to be rejected if I knowingly fail to disclose relevant information in my application. 
(Please sign electronically or by hand).
   
Signed:
       
Date:
       

Completion of this Appendix is not mandatory.  However, your response would be appreciated.
This data helps advisory committees to assess the effectiveness of recruitment strategies and aids the identification of patterns and trends in judicial diversity.
Statistical data is published annually on the judiciary website*; for example to show the proportion of magistrates from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.  The information is published in generalised form only – the personal details of individuals are never published. 
The information provided in this Appendix is not taken into account in assessing suitability for appointment. 
 

Gender
What is your gender?                Male   Female      I prefer not to answer this question.
 

Age
 Under 25   25-30         31-35         36-40         41-45         46-50         51-55
 56-60         61-65         Over 65      I prefer not to answer this question.
           
 

Ethnicity
I would describe my ethnic origin as: (please tick one box with which you most identify)
White
 British (or one of the following)
 English      Scottish     Welsh
 Northern Irish
 Other (please specify)
     
 Irish
 Gypsy or Irish Traveller
 Any other White background (please specify)
     
Mixed/multiple ethnic backgrounds
 White and
Black Caribbean
 White and
Black African
 White and Asian
 Any other mixed background (please specify)
     
Asian/Asian British
 Indian
 Chinese
 Pakistani
 Bangladeshi
 Any other Asian background (please specify)
     
Black/ African/ Caribbean Black British
 Caribbean
 African
 Any other Black background (please specify)
     
Other Ethnic Group
 Arab
 Any other ethnic group
     (please specify)
     





                                              I prefer not to answer this question.      
 

Disability
Do you have a disability?     Yes            No              I prefer not to answer this question.   

APPENDIX B – REFEREES
You should give details of three referees who have known you for at least three years. 
Refer to page 13 of the Guidance for Prospective Applicants.
Applicants in Wales only
If you have signified that you wish to be considered for a Welsh-essential vacancy, please write below the corresponding number of the referee (from referees 1 to 3) who would be prepared to confirm that you are sufficiently fluent in Welsh to be considered for these posts. (Additional guidance about this requirement will be provided to your nominated referee.)
     
Referee 1
   
Title
  Mr
  Miss
  Ms
  Mrs
  Dr
  Other (please state)
     
Surname
     
Forename
     
Address (including post code)
     
     
     
     
     
     
Contact Telephone
     
Contact Email
     
Occupation (if any)
     
Referee 2
   
Title
  Mr
  Miss
  Ms
  Mrs
  Dr
  Other (please state)
     
Surname
     
Forename
     
Address (including post code)
     
     
     
     
     
     
Contact Telephone
     
Contact Email
     
Occupation (if any)
     
Referee 3
Title
  Mr
  Miss
  Ms
  Mrs
  Dr
  Other (please state)
     
Surname
     
Forename
     
Address (including post code)
     
     
     
     
     
     
Contact Telephone
     
Contact Email
     
Occupation (if any)