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.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


One of the Government's favourite words these days, when speaking about reform of the justice system, is 'summary'. Tony Blair uses it all of the time. A quick look at Google produced these on page one:-
First, a radical extension of summary powers to police and local authorities to take on the wrong doers.......

There will be a radical extension of compulsory drug testing for offenders; a doubling of investment in drug treatment; summary powers to deal with drug dealers and with the violence from binge-drinking......

On law and order, Mr Blair emphasised his 'respect' agenda, with plans for a "radical extension" of police and local authorities' summary powers to take on wrongdoers......

Tony Blair announced new Home Office powers today that will end Britain's tradition of giving safe haven to foreign radicals and will allow foreigners accused of inciting extremism to be summarily deported......

That's one of those English words that has one meaning in the dictionary, but many more when used with the inflections and nuances of speech and writing.

The learned folk of Cambridge define it as:-
adjective [before noun]
done suddenly, without discussion or legal arrangements:
summary arrest/dismissal/execution
and that seems to summarise (Sorry!) the official enthusiasm for fixed-penalty type justice. The Magistrates' Association is very concerned about bodies other than courts imposing sanctions on people, and with good reason. What is a convenience in the hurly-burly of parking regulation and minor traffic law can soon become oppressive when extended to other offences, and that extension is exactly what the powers-that-be are aiming at.

Wrapped in a blanket of weasel phrases such as 'pre-court diversion' and 'conditional cautions' we are on the way to empowering salaried public employees, ultimately answerable to a Minister and therefore anything but independent, to impose penalties way above and beyond fines and including deprivation of liberty on the Queen's subjects.

It's wrong. It may well be introduced anyway. It will inevitably lead to injustice. But on the sofa at No.10, whomever's bum it supports, it will look like efficiency.