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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Post Hoc But Not Necessarily Propter Hoc

The Law Gazette quotes MoJ figures to justify the headline that magistrates are resigning because of the closure programme. Well, up to a point, Lord Chancellor.

The actual figures by no means amount to a rush for the exit, in a Bench of something like 30,000 people, but it is no surprise that some people who have served a good number of years look at the upheaval and the charmlessness of the MoJ's management, shrug their shoulders, and think: "I've had a good run, possibly the best of it, so why don't I just slip quietly out of the door?"

There have always been a significant number of colleagues who decide, perhaps in their mid-to-late sixties, retired from work and with the pension sorted and the grandchildren or the cruise beckoning, that they have done their bit and just can't be fagged to do another appraisal, or a bit more training that they will only use for a short while. It is common for these people to decline any kind or ceremony or acknowledgement on their departure, which speaks volumes for the quiet dedication that they brought to the job.

I am not tempted by this, but today's sitting saw many of the cracks starting to show in our new cheapo management. A couple of bits of routine paperwork simply were not available when the bench assembled, and when we finally got the court lists they were a shambles, ordered in no logical sequence, with cases going over to a fresh page that we had to look for, leading to an undignified and time-wasting paper-shuffling exercise on the bench every time a case was called. The bench in the courtroom next door wasted three quarters of their morning because their trial, in which all parties and witnesses were present, had been caught up in the scandalous log-jam in processing legal aid in London and could not go ahead. They finished up with nothing to do at lunchtime, so I gave them my court that at least had an afternoon list, and I cleared off.

As a contrast to our usual diet of small-time offenders we saw a seriously dangerous character, charged with a Section 18 GBH with intent committed a few days after his release from a long stretch for another violent offence. We sent him in custody to the Crown Court, and his solicitor didn't waste our time with a bail application. Whatever happens to the IPP following the Government's rethink, he looks like one of the men who needs to be kept away from the public for a very long time.

We had a bit of domestic violence that well justified a suspended sentence order and a fourth-time drink-driver who got the same, with a five-year ban and a requirement to take his (first-ever) driving test before getting a licence.