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.

My Photo
Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


I felt truly uncomfortable at court today, and then I went and did something that I did not believe in, for the sake of appearances.

In the pre-court gathering of the magistrates who were on duty today a senior member of the court staff came and told us that he was awaiting guidance from Head Office about the approach to be taken to the two-minute silence in memory of last week's murder victims and about the exact wording of the tannoy announcement to be made. My immediate reaction was that the Courts Service could direct its staff as it pleased, but had no right to tell any member of the judiciary what to do. My second reaction was one of irritation that highly paid staff of Her Majesty's Court Service saw the need to direct a standard script to be used from Truro County Court to the Old Bailey. Surely this sort of thing would be far better left to local judgement.

It was news to me but most colleagues felt that we should all assemble outside the courthouse just before noon, in response to exhortations in the press and from Whitehall. I deplore this kind of Dianafication of our society, and my instinct was to have nothing to do with it. I feel that public display is entirely un-British, mawkish, and self-indulgent. It turned out that I was the only magistrate not to head for the door at noon, so at the last moment I went out to the front of the court and stood rather awkwardly between a policeman and an usher while assorted defendants and their supporters sat on the low wall smoking.

So why did I do it? I think that I was anxious not to appear to be criticising my colleagues by staying inside and having a coffee, but now I wish that I had stuck to my principles. The Chairman of the Bench was sitting today, and he said earlier in the morning that he felt it right for all courts to adjourn briefly just before 12 noon, and that magistrates should use their own judgement as to whether to go outside or not. But they all went, so I went along with them.

Now I feel rather grubby.

Nobody could feel more sympathy that I for the victims of the terrorists, but I abhor stage-managed demonstrations of sympathy that are directed more at the six o'clock news than at the murderous fanatics - who would be utterly unimpressed anyway.