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, October 26, 2008

There Is Such a Thing As a Free Lunch

Some years ago I was invited to a squad annual lunch at Scotland Yard. I went along with a Detective Sergeant friend, and we had a very decent meal in the Yard's dining room. As we went in we passed paintings of formidable-looking former Met Commissioners, most of them of high military rank, since that's how the Met used to be led. As a guest I was seated next to the Superintendent who was in charge of the squad, and a good time was had by all. We exchanged a bit of gossip and a bit of banter, wine was drunk, and a couple of brief speeches concluded matters. My friend and I then retired with the more junior coppers present to the pub round the corner, where we all went on to pints and passed a jolly hour or two. My abiding memory is of the young coppers' surprise at the fact that a magistrate liked a pint, had a repertoire of slightly off-colour jokes, and even used the odd naughty word.
The point of this story is that because today's policemen spend next-to-no time in court now that the CPS do all the prosecuting, and because JPs were handed down an edict some time ago that we were not to accept invitations to view police work or to help with training young officers because it might compromise our independence, many officers will lose confidence in the judiciary because they are so remote from it, and many JPs will know little about basic policing other than what they can glean from the scores of police reality shows on TV. That's a shame, and I think it's wrong. I know for sure that at least one Lord Justice of Appeal agrees with me, and I hope that something can be done.
If things stay as they are more and more coppers will buy into the myth of the remote and out-of-touch 'liberal elite' that conspires to hamper the police and go softly on criminals. It isn't true, but if we aren't careful it will embed itself in police culture - if it hasn't done so already.
For myself I shall continue to stay discreetly in touch with my local front-line coppers, and I shall live in hope that I can go back to sitting in a mock court with young PCs giving evidence and being cross examined on it, while their puppy-walkers and colleagues watch them sweat.