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.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Back to Work

Tomorrow the Christmas and New Year break finally comes to an end. Magistrates' Courts worked on every day that was not a public holiday, but in most cases lists will have been light, and offices thinly staffed. Now it's back to business.
About one bench in three will have a new Chairman (the office is nowadays limited to three years' tenure) and many Deputies and committee chairmen will have changed too. The Bench Chairman's job has become much more onerous in recent years, partly because of extra responsibilities that have been added by statute, and partly because of the need to stay abreast of the bewildering mass of reforms, changes and consultations flooding out of Whitehall. Any Bench Chairman who is in full-time employment will need to rely heavily on his deputies to get everything covered.
Those taking up their posts for the first time have the benefit of a three-day residential course at Madingley, run by the Judicial Studies Board. What they will not have, is the one-to-one contact with their Justices' Clerk that used to be seen as fundamental to the running of their bench. Under the new arrangement of London's courts, each Clerk to the Justices will have something like 1000 magistrates under his or her wing, as well as ten or so Bench Chairmen to look after - it just can't be done.
Despite the move towards administrative 'justice' tomorrow will see the usual stream of miscreants appearing before magistrates, and every one will be a bit different from every other one. That's the fascination of it - there are few things more variable than human character and behaviour - or in this case misbehaviour.