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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Monday, 23 December 2013

DAMIEN//A MASTER OF SMOKE AND MIRRORS



Mr Damien Green. Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice, has written a four page letter to my colleagues and me having taken soundings from recent meetings held with about 400 J.P.s in attendance. I won`t bore readers with a complete transcript but I will comment on some paragraphs with my take on the underlying unsaid meaning.The first three paragraphs and my comments on each refer to Mr Green`s carrots to magistrates insofar as he will take note of their opinions.

D.G.
Magistrates should be doing the right work in court. You told us that your time in court should be focused on those offences which have the biggest impact on your communities. You want your courts to be busy dealing with many cases which go to the Crown Court and you would like to have a role in relation to these cases which currently receive out-of-court disposals. You should have the powers you need and the confidence to use them so that you can tackle the key problems in your local area and so that fewer sittings cancelled at short notice.

J.P.

His implication is that some of what we do is not "the right work in court".  In other words that "work" should be taken out of the court setting.  A court setting allows a defendant presumed innocent  to plead his/her case.  One can only speculate at the "work" he considers fit to be undertaken elsewhere but there is no doubt it will be based on sanctions against those who fail in their obligation to the corporate state.  No motor insurance, no T.V. license, failure to pay council tax etc etc would be likely candidates.  Whilst those types of cases that come before us are generally a fait accomplis  I am sure that we have all been in situations where the state has steamrollered  a citizen.  We are in effect a court of last resort. 

This government could very easily have removed the right of defendants to elect trial at Crown Court by abolishing or amending either way offences and thus we could have been  busy "dealing with many cases which go to the Crown Court".  It has chosen not to  do so being unwilling to push lawyers from rovolt to actual revolution.    

"Sittings cancelled at short notice" are  owing to inefficiencies in the system.  More than half of these are down to HMCTS plain and simple as my post of last Friday December 20th showed. 

 "Key problems in your local area" are generally problems which are common to all areas.  They have no relationship to court cancellations except insofar as CPS local structure is constrained by lack of cash and/or manpower. 

D.G.
Magistrates should be recognised as justice professionals. You told us that there should be a clear and well balanced relationship with District Judges (Magistrates` Courts). You would like your skills to be better recognised and fully used both inside and outside the courtroom; and the value of employing a magistrate should be better understood and communicated to employers. You would like to see your outreach work and other roles you undertake outside the courtroom better supported and recognised as part of the core role.

J.P.

After the platitude of our professionalism the government has increased the numbers of District Judges(M.C.) and makes no apologies for so doing.  We will demote some of your court sittings to lower level out of court environments and then you`ll realise that is where we intend you to remain.....out of court. The value of employing a magistrate should be better understood and communicated to employers  who will recognise your worth as they do with the new Army Reserve, I suppose,  which has recruited about a quarter of the numbers anticipated owing to employers not wishing to lose personnel for six weeks annually.  
 

D.G.
As justice professionals magistrates should have a clear development structure which attracts and retains excellent people. You told us of the importance of continuing to improve the diversity of the magistracy so that it truly represents local communities. You have told us that your development should be linked to the types of business magistrates can hear and the roles you take both in and out of the courtroom. You want this to be supported by a robust and transparent training, competence and appraisal system. You also told us you would like the opportunity to use your expertise in new ways; perhaps including non court roles like mediation or in different jurisdictions, in tribunals or prison/parole cases.

J.P.

Magistrates will be limited on the types of matters on which they can sit.  There will be a hierarchy just as if you were employed.  We will be requiring fewer J.P.s.  We must consider ethnic quotas and will ensure that BME candidates are appointed until their representation on the bench is equal to that of the local population even giving actual preference requirements to appointments committees.

D.G.
We`ll make better use of video links and we`re exploring different ways for defendants and witnesses to give evidence to reduce the movement of prisoners, and witnesses being forced to hang around for hours waiting to give evidence.

 J.P.
It`s no fault of the courts that witnesses have to wait many hours beyond their appearance request time.  Perhaps they will give video evidence and be allowed to leave, that evidence being unable to be challenged. 

D.G.
The more efficient progression of cases will be supported by judicial initiatives around case management, ensuring that you have the procedures and the confidence to deal with cases quickly and effectively.

 J.P.
We`ll pressurise more unrepresented defendants to plead guilty to get the matter over and dealt with quickly. 

D.G.
We are also working with defence practitioners and the CPS to ensure that more cases are ready for trial at first hearing and that prosecutors are empowered to take decisions and pick up cases when they are transferred between courtrooms.

 J.P.
Our depleted cadre of employed CPS prosecutors and reviewing lawyers will suddenly be gifted with magical powers and be able to read a file with each eye individually and simultaneously thus at a stroke doubling their work capacity.  In addition they will be able to muti task to such an extent that they will run two cases at once.  


 Such are the underlying truths of Mr Green who is first and  foremost a truly ambitious politician.  Supporters of Mr Green might term him a "loyal Conservative". His voting record would do justice to a member of the National People`s Congress of the Republic of China. However like most senior politicians Mr Green is a master of smoke and mirrors.

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