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 If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.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, 30 September 2016

TIME LIMITS TO POLICE BAIL

Magistrates are used to dealing with bail cases; to a point.  Applicants have been charged and a bench applies guidelines and rules to assess whether in fact remand in custody is necessary or indeed permitted for said offence and/or offender.  Police sergeants at the station have a different problem pre charge.  With a large number of high profile persons having been investigated for child abuse offences in the last few years and many subsequently at liberty on police bail for over a year without being charged the subject has finally hit the headlines with government proposing to place a time limit of 28 days in all such bail cases except in specific cases.  In addition a magistrate would be required to authorise any application to extend bail beyond three months.  Police chiefs have swiftly condemned these proposals.  

I can well understand the police position.  Their numbers have dropped dramatically in the last six years from 143,734 to 124,066.  Although perhaps some statistics tell us crime has fallen and others that it hasn`t IMHO reduced numbers of police officers mean that all the work that they do has to be rationed or performed over a longer period.  And that includes investigation into criminal activity when the person arrested has yet to be charged. F.O.I.  figures for the Met Police in 2014 show 4630 people were on bail for over six months.

Governments always seek scapegoats when publicly funded organisations or those contracted out have their budgets cut dramatically, way beyond expectations of increasing efficiency, and subsequently fail to perform to expected standards. The NHS, UK Border Agency as was, the Probation Service, the Prison Service are but a few examples.  The police are no exception.  Considering the prime minister`s previous office this meeting of contrary opinions is going to cause not a little dust to fly. 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

SENTENCING BY FOOTBALL RESULTS

Once again those running football are in the news because of their greed rather than their ability.  Magistrates` benches, unlike football managers,  are ideally constituted for diversity in all its forms; by sex, ethnic origin, by age so that their decisions might be as representative as possible in our diverse legal areas.    At my appointment potential Justices of the Peace had to declare their membership or not of a masonic lodge and their political preferences but that no longer applies. In one sector they are not selected by this variety all sorts approach to justice. They are not mandated to declare their allegiance to a sports team; rugby or football; cricket or hockey.   So in theory in a tight city like Liverpool or Manchester where if there is allegiance for J.P. footie fans  it is between two football  teams and it is not inconceivable that all three members of a bench could support the same team.  Now what happens if that team loses on a Monday night especially to its local opposition and three supporters are on the bench the following morning?  Now, dear reader, you`re wondering if I`m slightly off my head as well as off topic.  Researchers at Louisiana State University in the USA have asserted that juvenile offenders, particularly black offenders, were handed harsher sentences when the university`s football team lost especially when that loss was unexpected.

I wonder if too clever by half criminal lawyers will line  up this possibility of sporting despair when advising convicted clients of their chances on appealing sentence especially if sentence was by single District Judge..

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

BARLINNE PRISON CALLING YOU TUBE

I have opined in the past that the Prison Officers Association is one of the last bastions of union power in the public service sector.  In addition to what is gleaned in the public arena my own experiences whilst an active J.P. did nothing to dissuade me of this opinion; indeed they confirmed it.  Therefore it was with little surprise but some dismay that I read of a newly incarcerated racist murderer in Glasgow`s Barlinnie Prison  being able to propagate his hateful agenda on You Tube only a few weeks after entering Scotland`s biggest jail. 4.4% of the Scottish prison population consider themselves to be Muslim; a smaller proportion than in England.  It is therefore not unreasonable to consider the possibility (probability?) that inside help was a factor in  Tanveer Ahmed`s ability to obtain a mobile phone in order to spread his vile beliefs.  

Monday, 26 September 2016

THE NON TRIAL OF JOHN O` NEILL

Since January this year the  tale of the man who was required to give police 24 hours notice prior to engaging in sexual activity has provided this blogger and many others with a story simultaneously of mirth and profound dismay.  The apparent conclusion to this tale of which Kafka might have been hesitant to tell took place at York Magistrates` Court where District Judge Adrian Lower imposed twelve conditions on John O` Neill, a man acquitted of rape, and who has apparently no convictions for sexual violence.  These conditions relate to Mr O`Neill`s sexual intentions.

The legal system, quite correctly, has provision to charge and if necessary take to trial those suspected of planning to commit disorder or worse.  But this man is legally innocent of any such intent. By any standards it is a blot on the face of English justice that he has been made subject to such restraints in the same week that it was revealed that a Detective Superintendant was effectively sacked for allowing a murderer to incriminate himself willingly and without any coercion apart from the pleasure of smoking a cigarette whilst so doing.  

The activities of police with regard to what is known all too widely  as domestic violence and victim orientated investigations are becoming increasingly arbritary in their acting as judge,  jury and executioner where the ancient concept of innocent until proved guilty has become an anachronism.

Friday, 23 September 2016

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

As far as I am aware no figures are published of the numbers of magistrates who resign their posts.  Anectdotally it has been estimated by some that since 2012 up to 10% have resigned owing to government policy of court closures.  This latest report of resignations  in Wakefield adds to the litany. 

Further to my post of 13th September it seems that the world has really gone crazy.  As if one Chief Constable`s lunatic suggestion isn`t enough the Police and Crime Commissioner in Leicestershire is considering jumping on to the equality and diversity bandwagon.  Soon it will truly be Sharia law enforcement.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

SENTENCING GAP BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE

My criticism of police and their more than occasional thin skins does not allow failure of a bench of magistrates to offer them public protection to go unnoticed.  The offender in this case has such a history of violent behaviour towards them that the words of the bench chairman do not stand up to scrutiny however truncated the report....in my humble opinion of course.   She was at the earlier stage of a community sentence and had had a previous opportunity to solve her alcohol problem.  

This seems to be a perfect example of offering a woman a sentencing option which would not be offered to a male offender.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

POLICE WANT SECRECY ON MISCONDUCT

Giving some thought to today`s post it occurred to me that quite a high proportion of my posts have been devoted to criticism of police.  A few years ago that criticism was generally directed against the policies of constabularies or the unusual procedures undertaken by them.  But more recent postings have been more concerned with the antics of senior police officers and the ineptitude or worse that has passed for activities more befitting those cops from Keystone were they not much more serious. The most recent such comments were posted here on August 19th.

The Chief Officers` Council; formally ACPO, in its collective wisdom has tried to persuade its overseers that cases of alleged misconduct against its members be kept secret. What arrogance!  From Watergate to Whitehall it has been demonstrated that the cover up when revealed (as it usually is eventually) has greater ramifications that the misdeed itself.  Those whom we pay and entrust to lead the enforcement of the law should  be the most open of all to scrutiny when that trust appears, rightly or wrongly, to have been misplaced.

Monday, 19 September 2016

THE VIRTUAL WORLD OF POLICING

I have no idea of how many "press" officers are employed by the nation`s police forces but I reckon they all work overtime.  I can`t think of any other public service except perhaps the MOJ where journalistic spin seems to be as much part of its daily environment as the reality of its activities. Two sets of announcements recently have emphasised this variance.  On August 16th a little read publication  "Insurance Times" had a report on the wonderful initiative of City of London Police  to combat cyber crime.  Oh how fortunate we are to have such  stout fellows working behind the scenes to protect are wallets and purses.  But and it`s a big "but" today it has been revealed that 4.5 million debit and/or credit cards have been cancelled owing to fraud by those very same cyber criminals being sought by City of London Police.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to take seriously any statements from any senior police officers in any police force in the country. West Midlands is a classic example.  Last week they announced the establishment of bike patrols to target drivers who overtake cyclists without leaving the minimum  required distance between their vehicle and the bike rider.  Injury to cyclists is indeed concerning but so is assault, careless and dangerous driving, theft, robbery and myriad offences against the person.  

Truly in this regard the real target of police  is in their virtual world  where image supersedes  reality.       

Thursday, 15 September 2016

DISQUALIFY MOBILE PHONE DRIVERS

Just over three years ago I posted that increased fines for using a mobile phone whilst driving would be ineffective in controlling this dangerous occupation.  Increasing the number of penalty points was I opined the only sensible deterrent. The problem is getting worse. In its latest report the RAC Foundation states that in road accidents in Great Britain 240 people were killed where one driver was over the drink/drive limit. In the RAC Report on Motoring published today it is stated that "a significant minority of motorists (31%) admit to having used a handheld phone to make or receive calls while driving at some point in the past 12 months".  Government figures indicate that between 2012 and 2014  67 people were killed on our roads because a driver was using a mobile phone. The penalties for alcohol related driving offences are well known; disqualification on first offence for twelve months. Through that deterrence and social changes drink driving and its terrible consequences has been reduced. By comparison the level of fines imposed has had little influence.  

Today it is announced that on the spot fines for the offence of using a mobile phone whilst driving will rise from the current £100 to £150 and penalty points for car and van drivers will increase from three to four.    With the numbers of police patrols both on foot and in car much reduced in our cities it is unlikely that more offenders will be stopped in what is the first step towards punishment.  

The only way to curb this menace is to disqualify from driving for  three months for first offence .
A11) Final estimates for 2014 show that 240 people were killed in accidents in Great Britain where at least one driver was over the drink drive limit. - See more at: http://www.racfoundation.org/motoring-faqs/safety#sthash.v4z2tllE.dpuf
A11) Final estimates for 2014 show that 240 people were killed in accidents in Great Britain where at least one driver was over the drink drive limit. - See more at: http://www.racfoundation.org/motoring-faqs/safety#sthash.v4z2tllE.dpuf
A11) Final estimates for 2014 show that 240 people were killed in accidents in Great Britain where at least one driver was over the drink drive limit. - See more at: http://www.racfoundation.org/motoring-faqs/safety#sthash.v4z2tllE.dpuf

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

IN THE NAME OF EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY

There is no other way of saying this: sometimes I think this country and some of its authorities and power sources have gone arse over tit in their quest for so called "equality".  Perhaps it is the Left`s inability to get over Britain`s activity in the slave trade notwithstanding that Britain was also the first country to abolish that sordid activity which is still operational in parts of the globe. Perhaps the less than benign practices employed for the centuries when Britain ruled an empire still feature on the conscience of those who revile the western concept of democracy built upon Judeo Christian foundations.   Perhaps there are those who began reading Animal Farm but put it down before the story ended and still fail to see where the animals were led by so called "equality".  Whatever the motivation I was astonished to read of a so called Chief Constable who has advocated the possibility in the name of diversity of allowing his female Muslim officers to wear the burka.   This is "equal rights" gone stark staring mad.  Apart from the underlying philosophy of those who choose  to demonstrate their beliefs in such apparel, such beliefs not necessarily compatible with the law of the land they are employed to apply, in practical terms it would be ridiculous.   

I find it disturbing that such thinking processes led to this police chief`s absurd posturing.  

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

J.P. EN VACANCES

I`m off to La Belle France demain.  Hope to be back here in a week.

FINING FARE DODGERS

The apparent and sometimes actual disproportionality of some sentences, often fines, to offences has always been a cause for concern amongst interested observers of the nitty gritty of our justice  system.  It is acutely apparent in the fining of those who are convicted of non payment of fares on public transport.  Charges are laid to reflect whether or not there was intent to defraud or benign failure to pay.  The problems in my experience have arisen over the application or not by the transport authority of a penalty fare. In my early years on the bench I questioned at all levels the arbitrary nature of the rules on offering penalty fares as operated by prosecutors of the transport authority in my area.  From the bench chairman downwards I was told not to interfere. I did, however, persist and about two to three years later said authority made clear in its literature on line and in private that there would be conformity by its prosecutors.   Generally it worked.  A few years later such work was devolved to a nearby bench as part of a programme of "rationalisation".  I never did discover if that bench held the authority to the standards we had implemented.

So it is not often that a transport company and/or the Justice Ministry is open and clear about its policies towards fare dodgers.  The following is copied from a recent report of proceedings at Exeter Magistrates` Court:-

"Asked to comment on the severity of fines imposed for fare dodging, a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “Sentencing is a matter for the independent judiciary, who make their decisions based on the facts of individual cases.”

The maximum penalty for rail fare evasion with intent to avoid paying for a ticket is a £1,000 fine or three months’ imprisonment. The maximum penalty for failing to produce a ticket is a £500 fine.

However, statistics from the Ministry of Justice show the fines imposed by Exeter magistrates recently are well above the average for courts in England and Wales.
Last year 23,894 people were prosecuted for travelling by railway without paying the correct fare, failing to show a ticket or failing to give their name and address – a fall of 21 per cent on the previous year. Of those prosecuted, 18,680 were found guilty.
While 11 people were given a custodial sentence, the vast majority of defendants were fined. The average fine across England and Wales was £290 in 2015 – up from £91 a decade earlier.

A spokesman for train operator Great Western Railway said sentencing was a matter for the courts but added that the firm always attempts to deal with matters without court action.
He said: “Should individuals not respond to us the matter is referred to the criminal court process. Where a penalty fare is issued the passenger is written to and offered the opportunity to pay or to appeal the fine; a subsequent reminder is sent and then it is largely taken out of our hands and into the court process.

“To be consistent for all those travelling the rules are the same regardless of the fare amount and are set out in National Conditions of Carriage. It is the court’s decision and we would respect that decision.”

The GWR spokesman added: “Fare evasion costs the rail industry about £240 million a year. To make sure that customers who pay for rail travel are not unfairly subsidising those who choose to avoid paying, passengers are required to purchase a ticket prior to boarding a service from station ticket offices or from the available ticket vending machines.”

Where a passenger is unable to purchase a ticket prior to boarding – for example if a ticket office is closed and the ticket machine is broken – they are obliged to purchase a ticket at the next available opportunity."

Monday, 5 September 2016

BERET THEFT

Talented transvestite extraordinaire Eddie Izzard had his beret stolen.   Considering it was returned to him does this really justify a charge of theft and all the cost that magistrates` court appearance entails?

Saturday, 3 September 2016

McKOSHER FOOD FOR INMATES

As far as I know Judaism is not a  proselytising religion but for those who aspire for whatever reason to join the "chosen people" an initiation for would be male members is the norm. It is somewhat surprising therefore to read of the situation in Glenochil prison in Scotland where over 100 inmates have claimed their conversion to the religion of Jesus justifies their receiving kosher food. I doubt that even Nigella Lawson`s chicken soup would be  tasty enough  for their undergoing the ultimate procedure in proclaiming their new faith.  Apparently the prison authorities have to take them at their word without making further inquiries or examination as to their depth of commitment. 

Friday, 2 September 2016

UBER ENGLISH AND JUROR ENGLISH


Everyone has heard of Uber; many have used its services.  Those who drive under its banner are nominally self employed and many are not native born Britons but incomers who are seeking to improve their quality of life by working all hours available.  Those non native English speakers gradually improve their use of the language in the course of time.  Three of my own grandparents were non English speaking immigrants who never lost their foreign accents but whose language skills were more than adequate by the time I was starting school.  Their experiences were common to all who seek as adults to immerse themselves in the ways of their new homeland. 

London`s black cab drivers and Uber aren`t exactly in friendly competition.  It could be argued that the former`s  virtually closed shop and higher charges than in almost any other international city brought the confrontation upon themselves.  Be that as it may Transport for London who regulate taxi and minicab services in the capital have sought to impose minimum English language standards on those who drive for Uber. Legal proceedings have reached a stage where  that decision has been allowed to go to judicial review.  That background in connection to a quasi legal political blog is as follows:- there is no test of competence in the English language for those who are called upon to serve on a jury.  I find this inexcusable with or without a comparison with TFL and Uber. Government obsession with so called "equality"  or "discrimination" is IMHO to blame.  We are not all equal and discrimination is in itself not a hanging offence.  The meaning of the word has become so distorted that Wikipedia defines it thus:-  

"In human social affairs, discrimination is treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing is perceived to belong to rather than on individual merit"

There are other wider definitions:-
difference between one thing and another: discrimination between right and wrong

the ability to judge what is of high quality; good judgement or taste

The political definition as epitomised by Wikipedia is considered as gospel by some.  Without discrimination in its true wide definition the human race would have been extinct long ago.  For government to fail to amend language competence for jurors who are not even required to be citizens of this country at a time when it has been shown that there are a million Polish immigrants  and a similar number other foreign born who could be sitting in judgement in any crown court is an abrogation of its duty.  Perhaps during all the complexity of Brexit negotiations within government some attention will be paid to this insidious anomaly.