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.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's worth being careful!

During a break between cases the other day a detective was brought out into the Retiring Room to apply for two search warrants. One of my colleagues was a very new magistrate, so I took the opportunity to show him the procedures. First of all I had to remind the officer to produce his Warrant Card before we started. We then swore him, and looked at the first of his two applications. A warrant application consists of written authorisation from an Inspector to apply for the warrant, an Information giving the grounds for requiring a warrant, and three copies of the warrant itself. The information seemed fine, and after a few questions we said that we would grant the application. I signed and timed the Information then picked up the warrant. A quick glance showed that the wrong computer template had been used and while the Information specified a particular reason to search the premises the warrant itself referred to controlled drugs. "I can't sign this, officer. It refers to different offences from those on the Information." Silence. The Clerk helpfully offered to cross through the irrelevant bits, and the warrants were put into legal order. I signed them, initialling the amendments, and handed them over. "Sorry about that, sir. I'll have a word with the DC who typed it." Detectives appear to dislike being made to look silly in public.

On to the second warrant. The address had been clumsily altered, with the alterations not initialled. I pointed to the scrawls, without comment. "Er, sorry sir, that was me. May I put it right?" The clerk double checked it this time.

So he did and I duly granted and signed the warrant. The officer was shown out.

It was a first class lesson for my new colleague:- firstly, identify whom you are talking to, and secondly don't be hurried into signing anything until you have read it carefully. If you are at home there is a 24 hour duty clerk who can advise on any tricky points on the phone. It would have been easy to sign the incorrect warrants, leaving me with egg on my face rather than two unfortunate CID men.