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, June 10, 2011

Oddments From The Front Line

According to the latest issue of 'The Magistrate' half-day sittings are on the way out. My court has never operated them, but many others do. Our sittings are all calculated in half-days, with even a quarter-hour after lunch counting as a half-day. The idea was supposed to be to make it easier for those with a job to fit in a bit of court time, but in today's pressured climate it isn't really practical. If the morning's list runs over, as it often does, the afternoon session will start late. The rotas vary hugely across the country, but as HMCTS throws all local differences into the blender to produce a homogenous mixture it will soon be one-size-fits-all.

Recruitment of JPs is effectively at a standstill until further notice, as nobody has a clue what will happen to the workload, nor how many colleagues will take a look at the new cheap-and-not-too-cheerful system and decide that it isn't for them. Some of those displaced by closures may find themselves out in the cold for a while, and just walk away.

This is a comment from South London JP that deserves a wider audience:

Having attended the closure of 'my' court on Friday, (I have already transferred to another court nearer to where I live now) I can only applaud the way in which colleagues and court staff are managing to keep the creaking system going with good humour despite the challenges ahead.

What saddened me most however was turning up at 10am on the last day with the removal vans already decimating the place, despite the court still sitting. The electricity and phones were cut off at 11am. The court sitting lasted until 1.30. By 3pm the windows were being boarded up while the magistrates and court staff and users were still having their farewell 'party'. The sensitivity of HMCTS was truly demonstrated that afternoon.

Up until now as a self employed magistrate, I have never claimed Financial Loss Allowance for my court sittings as I considered it as a volunteer part of my 'giving something to the Big Society'. I can assure HMCTS that I will now be claiming my £116 odd per day just to spite them. Cost savings? Not if I can help it.

London Courts were organised by borough for about the last 40-odd years. Now that most are being merged on a 3-into-1 basis that raises the question of what to do about Youth Offending Teams, Probation and the like. And of course the Met is organised on a borough basis, like the CPS.