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, September 11, 2011

There May Be Trouble Ahead (part of a series)

I am sorry -

I'm sorry that it's been a bit quiet here lately, but I have been quite a busy boy. My court is one of those due to merge with two neighbours on January 1st, and that takes a lot of sorting out, especially as HMCTS hasn't finalised its staffing yet, due to the precipitate speed of the mergers and the cuts.

All benches will be holding their elections of officers for 2012 about now, and I am sorry that resource implications have prevented the use of anything more sophisticated that a simple first past the post voting system, because two-thirds of the electorate will not know the candidates well, or at all.

I am hopeful (as in fingers crossed) that the planned CPS move to paperless files early next year will speed things up and reduce cock-ups (you would be shocked to see just how often papers are physically mislaid) but I am sorry to say that worries remain - firstly of course this is a Government IT system, with all that implies. Secondly, there is a real worry that when evidence has to be released to defendants, as it must, that sensational documents or video will end up on the Internet. Victims aren't going to be very happy to see their interviews on You Tube. This needs fixing, and I hope that somebody has a handle on it.

I'm sorry too to say that you won't be seeing my judicial frown, plus occasional raised eyebrow or two, on TV any time soon.

The plans to relax restrictions in filming courts don't worry me at all. In fact I welcome anything that serves to open up the administration of justice to the public view. That is, after all, why I started this blog, ,and why I have taken every opportunity to publish judges' sentencing remarks whenever I thought that it would help understanding. But the lower courts are rarely newsworthy enough, as all we can do is pass on the serious stuff to the wigs upstairs. There will (I hope) be heavy restrictions on what can be shown, and sadly that will include lots of the most dramatic bits such as witnesses' evidence, the verdict, and the defendants' reactions.

Television tends to corrupt whatever it touches, and it is asking too much to expect even our most eminent and senior judges to resist the temptation to lay it on a little bit for the cameras, especially when you know that some millions of people will see your efforts.

Parliament imposes severe restrictions on images of MPs at work, and I hope that the courts are allowed the same, because if they are not justice will degenerate into entertainment in a very short while.