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.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Diary Check

Glancing at next week's diary, I find that I am due to sit on Monday, and that I have a committee meeting at 5 pm, so I hope that my sitting is neither an early finish nor a late one - although at the moment early finishes are much the more common, due to the drop in our caseload.
On Tuesday I am going to one of the big London prisons for a routine visit. That means an early start. I would rather overdo the timing than run late; there is no hardship in parking up and finding a good London caff for breakfast, a mug of tea, and a look through the paper. Turning up late at a prison is a pain, as the others in the party will have done security and the briefing and moved off into the visit. We have to be escorted for obvious reasons so it is a Bad Thing to be late.
I am going to a big prison that didn't exist when I started on the bench, and it's new to me. I would be a fool if I believed that we see everything, warts-and-all, but you can get a feel for the culture and the atmosphere. It's all right to talk to inmates (I must ask what they think of the unlovely Sun's habit of calling them 'lags') but it is important to be sensitive to your surroundings. The officers are happy to explain what they do and why they do it; my impression is usually one of relentless form filling and bureaucracy. Prisoners complete a form for a visit or to see their solicitor, or to order stuff from the canteen, or to make any one of dozens of applications. The dominant colours are cream walls and grey baggy tracksuits that are issued to the prisoners. And it's gates and keys, keys and gates everywhere you go.
That reminds me of a JP friend of mine who regularly attends Broadmoor. He has had basic self-defence training, and is issued with keys when he is in the hospital. He was firmly told when he started that if he ever lost a set of keys the cost of changing locks throughout the hospital would exceed a million pounds- so please don't do it, Sir.
At the end of the visit we have a meeting with a Governor, and there is usually a lively question and answer session, accompanied by a cup of tea that is made in front of us (for this reason). I will let you know how I get on.