The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a team, who may or may not be JPs, but all of whom are interested in the Magistrates' Courts.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Really Don't Know How To Start With This One

(from the Daily Mail)

Magistrate Iris Josiah is suing the Ministry of Justice for £75,000 after she was suspended over racism claims

A black magistrate who was victimised after highlighting alleged racist treatment of black defendants is set for a payout of up to £75,000.
Iris Josiah, 50, said that there was a 'culture of unfair practices against black defendants'.
She alleged her fellow lay justices were routinely 'hostile' towards black people and convicted them on slim or no evidence.
The magistrate added that they were also jailed for longer terms and were more likely to be sent to prison and refused bail than white defendants.
Ms Josiah, a former councillor in Haringey, was unlawfully suspended by court bosses after voicing her concerns about her colleagues' racism.
Even after it was decided that she should be re-instated, it was another four months before she was allowed to resume sitting on cases in Enfield, north London - and she was out of action for almost a year in all.
Stratford Employment Tribunal in east London made no ruling as to alleged race bias by magistrates.
But it today upheld Ms Josiah's claim against the Ministry of Justice that she was victimised after complaining of race discrimination.
She is now demanding punitive damages, aggravated damages and compensation for hurt feelings and is set to be awarded up to £75,000.
But Ms Josiah failed in her claims that she suffered a seven-year campaign of racist bullying and harassment by colleagues.
The tribunal also rejected her claim that she was overlooked for promotion to the post of court chairman on grounds of race.
In its judgment, the tribunal panel noted that Ms Josiah's allegations were "serious".
It stated: 'It is, clearly, very important that a magistrate treats black defendants fairly and without bias.'
It went on: 'An important purpose of the provisions under the Race Relations Act on victimisation is to provide protection in the workplace for individuals that make complaints of race discrimination.
'In her letter she made a complaint of race discrimination and harassment during the last seven years whilst serving as a magistrate.
'Various of the claimant's allegations concern being prevented from sitting as a magistrate.
'These include the allegations as to being requested not to sit as a magistrate; being suspended from sitting as a magistrate; being removed from a part-heard case; and as to the delay that occurred between being informed that she could resume sitting as a magistrate and being given sittings.
'The claimant was less favourably treated than someone that had not carried out a protected act.
'We do not conclude that the less favourable treatment was caused on the grounds of racial, national and ethnic origin.'
Ms Josiah's case was backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Her solicitor Lawrence Davies, of law firm Equal Justice, said today: 'Only a very tiny fraction of the victims of alleged race discrimination complain to tribunals about it because of the fear that they will be victimised if they do.
'This case illustrates that the justice system itself harbours those who victimise alleged victims of racism.'
College lecturer Ms Josiah, of Palmers Green, north London, became a JP at Enfield in 1995 and was, for many years, the only black magistrate sitting on the days she worked.
The mother-of-one, who is of Antiguan-origin, said: 'In the immediate years following my appointment as a magistrate, I witnessed the hostile treatment of black defendants by some fellow magistrates.
'It included harsh remarks, severe sentencing, disregard for personal mitigation and easy findings of guilt, irrespective of evidence.
'They were most likely to be refused bail and most likely to be sentenced to prison.
'I felt this needed to be discussed and resolved.'
Ms Josiah said she confronted some of her colleagues over their unfair treatment of black defendants.
'The cumulative effect of the systematically unfair manner in which I have been treated has been extremely painful and humiliating,' she said.
'On many occasions I have been minded to resign from the magistracy but with the support of my family have continued.
'I have no doubt that I have been victimised over the years for raising concerns of racial discrimination against black defendants.'
In January 2007, Ms Josiah was accused of saying 'I'm sorry' to a defence barrister in court after their client was convicted.
Despite her two co-magistrates and the defence barrister reporting that they had heard nothing, Ms Josiah was formally investigated.
She raised her formal complaint of race discrimination in February 2007.
Ms Josiah was then told she was being suspended until her disciplinary matter was resolved.
She was cleared that summer but was not able to resume sitting on the bench until January 2008.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: 'The Lord Chancellor is carefully considering the decision and reasons given by the employment tribunal and will, if necessary, investigate and take appropriate action.
'Any part of the justice system should be a place where people want to work, feel valued and are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.
'The Ministry of Justice has clear set standards of expected behaviour for its own staff and takes a tough stance on bullying and victimisation.'