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.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Devil Is In The Detail

The Retiring Room and the area round the coffee machine were abuzz yesterday with magistrates and clerks talking about the proposed court closures and Bench amalgamations. Most people accept that changes are inevitable and that only larger courts will be able to deal with the workload with the efficiency that we need to show.
Our courthouse will survive, and we will have no trouble absorbing, along with the the two surviving courts in the area, work displaced from the small courts that are marked for closure.
A lot of work has to be done to make amalgamated Benches function smoothly. Our proposed new Local Justice Area could be one of the good ones, as the three London Boroughs concerned have good transport links and similar demographics. Unfortunately, as is the case across the country, different courts follow very different organisational practices, This is the inevitable result of having a centuries-old system that was, until a dozen or so years ago, managed by a Courts' Committee of local magistrates.
The rotas will present the first problem. My court issues a rota three months at a time, after ascertaining JPs' availability. We are free to swap with a colleague of appropriate training and experience if something crops up. The court up the road has a rota for each day of the week, so if you are a Tuesday person you will never sit with a Friday colleague. I would hate that. Will the new Bench have one Bench Chairman or three? Or will there be one Chairman plus a Deputy for each courthouse? What about key committees such as the Bench Training and Development Committee? One or three?
As I say, there's a lot of work to do. But we have made it work for 649 years so far, so we can cope with this lot.