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 retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Technology in Court - or Not

The IT used in the criminal justice system is years late, over budget, and works badly. Police, court and CPS computers are not always compatible, and although some courtrooms have a terminal on the Clerk's desk there is nothing for the magistrates. Everything is done via thick paper files that can be mislaid, and frequently are.

Unbelievably, if you turn up to my court charged with a traffic offence, and you can't find your driving licence, we have to put the case off for three weeks (too bad if you live in Manchester) while we obtain a paper printout of your record from DVLA. Even then, if there is the slightest discrepancy in the name on the licence, the search comes back 'no trace' and we start again.

The police have access to the DVLA's data via the Police National Computer, but the courts do not. I found this hard to believe when I first became a magistrate twenty years ago, and it is still the case today.

When we hear a trial the clerk has to make a longhand record of the proceedings, as tape recording equipment is not available. The result is to slow matters down while the poor sod scribbles away.

We have video players and cassette machines, but we can't play a DVD, which are increasingly used to store CCTV data. Tescos have a DVD player for less than thirty quid, but we are obliged to adjourn to let the parties view the evidence - all at public expense.

As the politicians vie for the law'n'order vote the police have been given lots of expensive new toys to catch criminals, but once those criminals go to court it's back to a 10p Bic pen and an A4 pad.