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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

PUTIN`S PROPAGANDA

Just when you think it`s safe to go back in the water along comes a shark.  Yesterday I pondered on the multitude of page views from Russia and today in the Times the headline`s all about Ruskie propaganda.  Has this blog been selected by Vladamir P. and his henchmen to provide an insight into and subsequently subvert the judicial system?  I would suppose my late Ukranian grandfather would comment that nothing changes east of the Dnieper. 

Friday, 29 July 2016

RUSSIAN VIEWERS//HURRAH FOR BLOGSPOT TRANSLATOR

Over the last few days I`ve noticed that an increasing number of page views of this blog originate from Russia.  Yesterday there were close on one thousand.  This is puzzling.  Is a certain V. Putin putting his watch dogs on the blog?  Does it pose a threat to the Kremlin?  How can the occasional rants by a somewhat cynical perhaps confused capitalist with libertarian leanings and memories of a council house upbringing attract such observers?  Maybe this is just a flash in the proverbial pan and my Russian readers will find somewhere else to augment their English language lessons.  I say hurrah for blogspot translator.

MANDATORY CUSTODY FOR COMMON ASSAULT ON ULSTER POLICE

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland is a unique organisation in the U.K.  Its members are permanently armed and 18 years after the Good Friday Agreement still face threats rare in the rest of the country. Whilst the degree of misconduct amongst PSNI is probably no better or worse than on the mainland inquiries into shootings resulting in death seem rare.  Assault on police  on the other hand are not  uncommon.  According to a FOI request "in the financial year 2014/2015 there were 2,866 assault offences where the victim was a police officer on duty."  The Police Federation of Northern Ireland is arguing that a custodial sentence should be mandatory for every offender convicted of an assault on their members.  Their request to Stormont makes clear that even those convicted of common assault where no harm occurs should suffer that mandatory jail sentence.  There cannot be a single J.P. or criminal lawyer who is unaware and/or has no experience of the most perfunctory "assault on P.C." being brought to court on the flimsiest of evidence.  The good burghers of Stormont should think carefully before acquiescing to this request.


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

NOTTINGHAM POLICE SHOULD BE HELD TO ACCOUNT



On July 14th I posted on Nottingham Constabulary`s zealous new approach to "hate" crime.  After all what better way is there for a police force to demonstrate its intentions and abilities to protect the citizens of "Robin Hood Country"  than grabbing hold and clinging on to the current policing bandwagon and making jingoistic sounds of catching outlaws emanate loud and clear from its press department?   Now, after one headline,  all the world can see the true ineptness, incompetence and simple bullying that lie just beneath the smooth exterior of its temporary chief constable who, in the coming days or weeks, will no doubt endeavour to justify her position whilst her boss who left last month gets a sun tan in Cyprus whilst policing that notoriously crime ridden area known as the British Sovereign Base Area, Akrotiri and Dhekelia.  

A 16 year old pupil living within the compass of Notts Police was wrongly accused of bullying, dragged from her classroom and imprisoned in cells at Mansfield police station and refused contact with her parents who travelled to that venue to see their daughter.  I won`t re-state the events as the episode is reported here in sufficient detail for any dispassionate observer to conclude that the behaviour of said police force was nothing short of disgraceful and a flagrant abuse of power. 

This courageous girl has waived her right to anonymity so that her case can be be discussed in the public domain. The question is how many other cases of arrogant and possible unlawful police behaviour in Nottingham and elsewhere remain secret?

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

LATERAL THINKING FOR THE JUSTICE SECRETARY

I have no doubt that Michael Gove`s dismissal from his post at Justice is viewed with disappointment by many, including this observer, notwithstanding the short lived Shakespearean history that preceded it.  It is to be hoped that his successor will lend her mind to the truly awful state of our prisons.  

Custodial sentences are of course the result of sentencing policies signed into law by parliament.  When magistrates` courts were empowered to impose custody suspended that disposal became increasingly common.  In 2005 about 6,000 offenders were subjected to suspended custody orders in the courts of England and Wales.  By 2015 that number had risen to over 49,000.  No figures are available for disposals subsequent to breaches of such orders. Thus sentencers at magistrates` courts in some matters have a choice whether or not to fine offenders, impose community service orders, to impose immediate custody or custody suspended (SSO) or a combination. In the case of this man the disposal was a SSO. There is no mention in the report of any previous convictions but it is inferred his driving record was clear. The fact that immediate custody was not the disposal indicates that the bench did not consider that that final resort was in his interests or that of society.  However, let us assume  indeed that the offence was a one off.  The almost maximum hours of community service imposed will in actual fact be unlikely to provide any useful benefit to his community and the hours finally employed will be much fewer than the 280 imposed owing to various bureaucratic obstacles.  Apart from his disqualification from driving his liberty and freedom of movement  have been unaffected.  Some might consider that is appropriate.  I do not.  There should be a provision for part time and/or weekend loss of liberty commensurate with the offence.  Of course that would entail the availability of accommodation suitable for purpose.  It surely is time that the outdated attitudes to sentencing at present can be replaced by innovative projects without succumbing  to Howard League and its "no prison sentences under 12 months" policy.  I suppose lateral thinking or its modern term, "thinking out of the box" would be required.  I await the new Lord Chancellor`s initiation into the job and hope that she`s not relying on the hyperbole of her press office to see her over the line.

Monday, 25 July 2016

HIGH HURDLES FOR J.P.s` BEHAVIOUR

I am now a retired magistrate on the supplemental list.  Contrary to my non use whilst active, since my retirement I have used the J.P. suffix but very occasionally on my letterhead when I have considered it appropriate so to do for personal or business reasons.  Having survived the potential wrath of the powers that be for six years as a blogger I was surprised to note that a fellow J.P.  retiree   on the same supplemental list has been sacked. Being a  not infrequent reader of the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office website I cannot recollect any previous case similar. With scant information available detailed comment is impossible but it does demonstrate that even for old codgers there is a point at which actions or behaviour become unacceptable to the authorities.  Having had some letters published in The Times using the J.P. suffix as an indication of interest in the legal matter under discussion I note also the reprimand handed out to an active magistrate whose apparent failure to self censor or sub edit her letter to a national newspaper has put her in judicial hot water. My third and last comment on recent activities of the JCIO concerns a J.P.  who used the suffix when making a character reference for a party to court proceedings. This case is particularly poignant for me personally.  One of my closest and most scrupulous former colleagues, a barrister,  was removed from the magistracy for a similar act.  A supporting statement for an individual involved in legal proceedings has only as much significance as the personal, intellectual, social and/or moral standing of the supporter. The now forgotten terms of passport application attested to this.  It is my humble opinion that such an action which has caused this J.P. to be found guilty of misconduct is perfectly legitimate within reasonable caveats and is undeserving of the permanent debasement of his magisterial character. 

For many years I have considered that magistrates who are part time unpaid junior members of the judiciary are required to jump  tougher behavioural  hurdles than judicial civil service   employees.  These latest statements reinforce that opinion.

Friday, 22 July 2016

TOO MANY CHIEFS OR NOT ENOUGH INDIANS?

On 25th July 2013, shortly before my previous host site was taken down, I commented on the numbers of serving police officers in England and Wales and the ratios of how the various ranks were proportioned.



4.86 constables/sergeant
3.26 sergeants/inspector
3.49 inspectors/chief inspector
2.2 chief inspectors/superintendent
2.24 superintendents/chief superintendent
1.82 chief superintendents/ACPO rank



I have no knowledge of the internal workings or management of large organisations but it does seem that the police are top heavy at the higher ranks of chief inspector and above.

Current figures are for 2015:-

Thus the ratio of ranks is now:-



5.17 constables/sergeant
3.36 sergeants/inspector
3.44 inspectors/chief inspector
2.02 chief inspectors/superintendent
2.43 superintendents/chief superintendent
1.68 chief superintendents/ACPO rank

Are there too many chiefs and too few indians? The numbers above indicate a constable:ACPO rank of 493.78. Perhaps somebody more knowledgeable than I can comment on the significance of these numbers?



















Thursday, 21 July 2016

THE PRESCIENCE OF GEORGE ORWELL

So once again a sporting celebrity or hero or icon, call him what you will, seems to have overpowered the common sense of a lay bench by force of his personality status and a good lawyer.  This time it was "Freddie" Flintoff; he of past cricketing fame.  His speeding offence had a  punishment financially  at Level 3 (max £1,000) and a Band B  fine regulated at  100% weekly income although there is discretion to fine in the range 75% - 125%.  The news report of his hearing gives no indication of the offender`s plea but I would assume it was guilty and so allowed a reduction of one third in the amount of fine.  Driving penalty for his offence is 4 - 6 penalty points or a discretionary disqualification of 7 - 28 days.  £500 fine plus extras and four points seems to this observer to have been arrived at by assuming income at £1,000 weekly; a vast  under estimate IMHO and applying the lowest 75% available. This seems to be a bench in awe of the offender`s status.  To the general public it will be seen as another example of rich and famous people getting off easy.  That is bad for justice and bad for society. It adds to the current malaise of a large section of a population feeling removed from those with power and wealth who have influence and control of their lives and the plebs who must do as they are commanded.  In the view of many commentators this somewhat unquantifiable phenomenon underlay the success of the LEAVE campaign and has similarities with the motivations of those supporting Trump in the U.S. 

The lay bench is supposed to be representative of the society from which it has been appointed. I doubt many in Manchester would agree. Once again it seems that George Orwell had it right all these years ago.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

CCTOs: THEY DON`T EXIST BUT THEY SHOULD

We`ve had ASBOs and CRASBOs; DBOs and CBOs; CPNs, DPPOs and now since 2014 PSPOs.  Apart from the tiny minds with little memory, long on aliteration and low on original thought is there any hope at all that those who advise the new Justice Secretary will find their comeuppance as did many who were faced down by Michael Gove......may his reputation seek resurrection.  Last week I posted on the limitations the justice system is facing with regard to those who are a public nuisance owing to their addiction.   Depending on sources it is estimated that 50% - 70% of all criminal activity is based on the perpetrators` drug and/or alcohol addictions.  Of about 200,000 violent crimes annually in England and Wales it is thought that just under half were committed under the influence of alcohol. 

Boston Magistrates` Court on Monday was a shameful example of how we treat alcoholics whose public behaviour is intolerable. But disposals similar are handed out in their hundreds week in and week out all over the country.  Sooner or later a government must grasp the nettle and find a way of making compulsory confinement and treatment available for those for whom the only future prospect is an early pauper`s death followed by a pauper`s funeral in a borough cemetery funded by perhaps the same council that authorised the use of PUBLIC SPACE PROTECTION ORDERS.   I have it; let`s have CCTOs: COMPULSORY CONFINEMENT AND TREATMENT ORDERS or would it be quicker to wait for Godot?

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

DO SENIOR POLICE DESERVE OUR TRUST?

Until perhaps about thirty or so years ago tales of police corruption were front page news.  Headlines were made because such stories were relatively rare.  It was even more unusual to find that senior officers were involved.  Rarely did the blame ever fall upon those of superintendent rank or higher.  And it was anathema  to think that chief constables or, for the Metropolitan Police, those of deputy assistant commissioner rank, were in any way less than 100% honest and straightforward in all their dealings whether within the force or without.   In recent years five chief constables have resigned with more than a whiff of corruption or at best incompetence or misconduct surrounding them.  Whilst actual criminality amongst senior police ranks might still be unusual acts of serious or gross misconduct are becoming all too common.  

On June 10th I posted inter alia about the behaviour of Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine de Brunner.  A fuller report on that incident is available here. It seems that actions whilst perhaps  not actually corrupt but perhaps reprehensible and worthy of being defined as gross misconduct are endemic in this highly placed police officer`s modus operandi. In 2014 she mobilised uniformed police officers to "perform" at her son`s private school: this, at a time when the Met, as with all other police forces was and is facing drastic budget cuts. This person in whom we, the public, expect 100% propriety having got away with  such devious self satisfying actions once attempted in her arrogance to repeat her performance last month for a similar event at the school where she is now chairman of governors.  That deployment of officers has now been cancelled by the Met and she is facing a misconduct investigation.

In another example of highly suspicious police activity the house of a senior police officer in Manchester was bought by his own force in 2014 in order to allow its owner who was involved in the investigation of Dale Cregan who had killed two police officers and a father and son in 2012 to move out fearing retribution from Cregan or his associates.  The property was then sold at a loss to a family who were not informed of its history.  It is beyond belief that Greater Manchester Police put their own situation above that of the new purchasers without consideration of the fact that threats to the house`s occupants would still be likely from anybody approaching the house to do harm to those inside.  Perhaps that threat was indeed weighed in the balance and dismissed. 

These two revelations are public knowledge owing to investigations by a free press.  Leveson would put handcuffs on such events. An article in the Spectator in 2015 is revealing.

This is a sad state of affairs and does great discredit to our new prime minister and her predecessors.  There will be hell to pay if the public`s tolerance of corruption in any form including gross misconduct  of the most senior police officers in this country  is allowed to continue unchecked by new procedures. If there were less emphasis by their highly paid press people on how lucky we are to have them and how good they are at "keeping us safe" and more attention to cleaning out the undesirables of all ranks society, ie you and I,  would be better off. 


Friday, 15 July 2016

ALTERNATIVE SENTENCING FOR ADDICTS


From time to time I have opined that those addicted to drugs and/or alcohol who habitually are the cause of social disharmony or worse have entered that interface where they should be considered as requiring medical treatment and thus avoiding the courts` system. Compulsorily confining such individuals would be politically very difficult to say the least but sooner or later it will be recognised as the lessor of two evils. Almost every other day in every other magistrates` court an example will present itself of an individual where there is simply no sensible solution to this problem of totally unacceptable behaviour where members of the public  are in real or perceived danger. Such a person totally out of control appeared recently before magistrates in Cornwall and was, inter alia, made subject to a criminal behaviour order (CBO) specifying that, "he must not use swear words, make threats, use physical gestures, use visual representation, cause nuisance or obstruction that would cause any person offence, intimidation or distress directly or indirectly within the UK."
 

Is it really possible for a magistrates` bench to make such a crass order where the offender is set up for failure? Obviously the answer is in the affirmative. I can apprerciate that the bench was severely restricted in its options but all it will do is postpone the date of his next sojourn at Her Majesty`s pleasure at the taxpayers` expense. There must come a time, although with current political hurdles it is unlikely before 2020, when some bright new spark at Petty France in consultation with the royal colleges of medicine and senior judiciary explore realistic alternatives to prison for the likes of the offender discussed above whose sorry tale was reported in yesterday`s Metro.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

NOTTINGHAM POLICE//FUR COAT AND NAE KNICKERS

One doesn`t need an economics degree to understand that the greater supply or use of an item tends to cause a devaluation when there is no corresponding demand for such use.  Language is no exception.  Basic words with basic or essential meanings are widely used.  For more focussed, nuanced or subtle variations new or imported words are employed to convey the depth of meaning required by the author or talker. 

Take the word "hate".  It is an old English word related to proto Germanic Dutch and Swedish words from the same origin. It can therefore be assumed to have in its use a universal meaning. The word "crime" as used in its ancient form by the Greeks described an offence against the community as opposed to a personal or moral wrong. The term "hate crime" was unknown prior to the mid 1980s when it appeared in the USA.  It is generally now described as a prejudice-motivated crime, often violent, which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership (or perceived membership) in a certain social group. Examples of such groups can include but are not limited to: sex, ethnicity, disability, language, nationality, physical appearance, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation. Those groups now under the hate crime umbrella did not suddenly appear on the statute book one day as requiring protection or special consideration.  Changes in society`s attitudes have driven the definition.  Some people are beginning to ask what are the limits of the definition of hate crime. Those of a certain generation will recollect when it was not uncommon to use or hear grossly offensive terminology against people from Ireland, against black people, against Jewish people, against Catholics or Protestants in Northern Ireland  Liverpool and the West of Scotland. When such abuse was directed against physical appearance; eg the disabled or transgender people public pressure increased the scope of the definition.  What had previously been offensive had become criminal or criminally offensive.  Nowhere has there been more debate on this definition than when the deemed offensiveness and occasionally violence was of a sexual nature.  It became an aggravating factor in sentencing.  

Nottinghamshire police have announced that they are to actively investigate "misogynistic crime".   What has been taken by many to be friendly banter without a hint of malice implied or received could now be recorded as a hate crime. With regard to an alleged incident a police spokesperson is reported in the Mirror as having said, "If the victim feels that this has happened because they are a woman then we will record it as a hate crime. "This doesn’t necessarily mean that a criminal offence has been committed, but means we will carry out risk assessments and offer support as we would to any victim of a hate crime. " (my highlight).

By extending the words "hate crime" to include certain activities in this way IMHO this constabulary is actually reducing the power of the term.  An admission that they will be in pursuit of alleged offenders of whom they will be aware some or many will be innocent of any alleged wrong doing whilst they are using very scarce resources strikes me as their having lost sight of priorities.  During this current year they are striving to ensure services to their public despite a budget cut of £12 million

Surely there has to be a proper trade off in expenditure and result when using tax funded police budgets as in any other scenario.  There is a saying in Scotland which perhaps sums it up: She (i.e. Notts police) is wearing a fur coat and nae knickers.


Monday, 11 July 2016

SLOGANS OVER SENSE AT WHITEHALL

As recently as last Tuesday July 5th  I pointed out that if a government department does not want to supply statistics or answer any questions on a particular topic it has a very simple get out; it does not collect any statistics on that topic thus allowing the minister or secretary of state to be in a situation of plausible deniability. The same situation happens in the legal sphere where a lawyer will refuse to hear certain utterances from a client.

The issue of custody suspended has been a bone of contention since such powers were expanded dramatically in the magistrates` court.  In 2014 there were over 30,000 disposals of custody suspended; more than ten times the numbers of a decade earlier.  What is not in the public domain is the number of breaches of suspended sentences.  According to the MOJ it indeed holds this information but its retrieval would exceed the financial limits imposed by the Freedom of Information Act.  There is a similar inability to produce the outcomes of these breaches.  Today the Telegraph has published details resulting from a parliamentary question by a member of the Justice Committee.   The public has no access to the Police National Computer. Of course the Telegraph (and others) make play with the numbers which do not truly reflect the Minister`s answer. Personally, as far as I can recall, with few exceptions  I generally sought activation after two breaches although my colleagues did not always concur and sometimes the probation service were also reluctant to argue that position.

It is  headlines which are taken as information by most of the population not  parliamentary answers.  If  the MOJ wished to have the common man (or woman) on its side it would gladly collate the figures refused in an FOI request as above and consider the expense a small price to pay to ensure that the public had faith that the justice system was doing its best to ensure that repeat offending had consequences and that society could be certain that government spokesmen repeating the mantra of public protection were not just paying lip service to a political slogan.  The current policy simply doesn`t seem to make sense. But then "sense" does not seem a priority for many in Whitehall.

Friday, 8 July 2016

THE HOUSE OF LORDS DEBATES J.P.s` SENTENCING POWERS

Yesterday the House of Lords debated the question of whether or not magistrates` sentencing powers should be increased to twelve months.  The noble exchanges were a perfect example of a "yes but if perhaps" session.  Or to put it more succinctly, the proxies of the irresistible argumental force of the Magistrates Association met the immovable rock proponents of the Howard League.  The debate concluded surprisingly enough with mild and lordly disparaging comments on the issue of magistrates varying tags imposed on offenders to allow them to take holidays.  Presumably their lord and ladyships were unaware that the significance of tagging was to ensure that the terms of a curfew were met.  Indeed this ignorance was underlined by the comment of Lord Smith of Hindhead, "Can the Minister update the House on recent talks with the Magistrates’ Association to help close this loophole?"  We, of course, know that there is no such loophole and that a bench has the power to vary the terms of a curfew upon application so to do.  Whether any decision of that nature has been ill advised is another matter. In addition the Magistrates Association of course is powerless to change the law. The debate is available here.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

CAN £11 MILLION DAMAGES AGAINST NHS EVER BE JUSTIFIED?

Andrea Leadsom in her remarks today promised to curb the ridiculously high salaries and bonuses that senior company executives pay themselves especially with regard to the average wages of a firm`s employees.  Aside from anything else one doesn`t have to be even a middle of the road leftist to realise that unbridled capitalism is as much a curse on a cohesive society as one with central planning. But it seems that in other spheres, namely in our law courts, the issue of damages, alimony and divorce settlements is equally out of hand.

To be injured or have reduced life expectancy or the life of a vegetable owing to others` incompetence or malevelance must be a tragedy of enormous proportions for all the family involved. When a public body and/or its employees supposedly with quango oversight is responsible it is only right that recompense be made for the trauma suffered and its consequences even if that entails lifelong support.  But does that justify a capital sum of £366,666 annually for life in addition to annual income of £110,000 from the original overall capital sum awarded in a damages claim?  This child`s life has been ruined by medical incompetence and now the tax payer is short of £11,000,000.  Try as I might I can only conclude that that figure is not only astonishing but unreasonable. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

3 IGNORANT MONKEYS // POPULARITY, POPULISM, FASCISM

Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru are not names widely recognised.  However if I continue by writing that the first by covering his eyes  sees no evil; the second by covering his ears hears no evil and  the last by covering his mouth speaks no evil they are now recognised as the three wise monkeys. This very old Japanese or Bhuddist proverb tells the simple truth that people who refuse to acknowledge impropriety, who look the other way or simply as is often the case  feign ignorance  can then plead lack of moral responsibility on their part when faced with difficult questions. Nowhere does this truth appear  more frequently than in government.  And that is how we have no knowledge as to the effect on justice of the difficulties and probable injustices caused by the increasingly severe restictions on legal aid in the magistrates` courts system. Thus saith Shailesh Vara Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice in his answer to a recent parliamentary question

"The representation status of defendants in magistrates’ courts is not recorded. Data on whether unrepresented defendants meet legal aid means and merits tests, and whether they chose to defend themselves, is not available."

Since the June 23rd referendum there has been a noticeable number of commentators observing that the result was as much a disconnection of people from their governments as a positive declaration of wishing to leave the E.U. Similar sentiments have been employed in describing the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Saunders from the cloud cuckoo land of American politics or Marine Le Pen`s emergence from the unsavoury shadow of her father`s past and current opinions. It could be argued that Corbyn`s cry for "new politics" is a branch of the same tree. Popularity, populism, fascism...........

 

Monday, 4 July 2016

BELIEVE THE UNBELIEVABLE

It has long been thought that parrots are amongst the most intelligent of birds in addition to their being able to remember and  mimic many varied sounds including the human voice.  However an African Grey in Michigan is posing a problem that would unlikely  be  a consideration in this country: is there justification in its being called as a witness in a murder case?  As they say............only in America.

But for unlikely legal decisions one doesn`t have to travel 4,000 miles.  On June 9th I commented on the latest stage of what can only be described as a situation worthy to sit alongside Catch 22 or Kafka`s "The Trial" except it is reality and not a situation worthy of Monty Python. The unfortunate central character in all this has begun a hunger strike or so we are informed in this report.  

Truly it is hard to believe that such official decisions can be allowed to progress unchecked by higher authority. 

Friday, 1 July 2016

LATEST LEGAL AID STATISTICS MAGISTRATES` COURT

The above table part of a series published today might make interesting reading for those with a vested interest in the changes in the legal aid system. Full information is available here.

LEAVERS AND RACE HATRED

Amidst the bile being spilled by disaffected REMAINERS against those who voted otherwise there is a common theme that community relations have been damaged and race and ethnic hatred has been exacerbated.  Spurious statistics have been produced and roundly demonstrated as being proof of such changes to our previously peaceful multi cultural society.  As representatives of various ethnic minorities and Corbynites for their own end seek to propagate this opinion it is refreshing to read an article in the forever was and forever will be admittedly anti E.U. Daily Express in which the the editor of the Jewish Chronicle Stephen Pollard rebuts such opinion.