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.

My Photo
Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

All Change

I have migrated the blog to


and copied all of the posts across.

I shall leave this one up for the foreseeable future, but I shall post to the new url, which has working comments. I shall bring the old comments across as soon as I can find the time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Housekeeping Updated

I have no idea what has happened to the comments - JS-Kit was dumped on me when they bought out Haloscan. I have tried to get in to put it back to normal, but I haven't got time. I'll have a go when things calm down a bit.

Wednesday Update: Comments are back at the new url and the posts are all migrated across. That's a start.

What I want to do is get rid of the js-kit comments and if necessary switch to a new blog site, that is simple and clear. I need to preserve the almost 2000 posts and if possible the many thousands of comments.

Current Affairs

The CPS are shortly to begin their new 'paperless as far as the door of the court' document handling system. I wish them well and hope that the widely expressed fear that this will be just another Government IT fiasco proves to be groundless.

The gossip grapevine tells me that local solicitors are tooling up with the gizmos to allow them to deal with electronic files at court, and the potential savings are tempting.

But there's a snag (that surprised you didn't it?). A well used laptop will often run out of amps and volts within a working day. So, as one would, the lawyers will charge them from a convenient point. Snag? Many court managers refuse to allow stuff to be plugged into an HMCTS socket unless said stuff has been safety tested and bears the appropriate sticker. Even the -wait for it- kettle in our clerks' rest room has to be solemnly checked and have its sticker attached each year. (Thought - since Tescos do a kettle for well under a tenner, isn't that less than the facilities company will charge for the test and the paperwork?) .

I hope and pray that someone in HMCTS will have a Lord Nelson moment and ignore the whole stupid business.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Oh Dear

The Government is hinting at a new wheeze to get a grip on the unruly behaviour of the British public. This is reminiscent of the most manic and absurd days of Tony Blair.

Moral panics are a regular feature of life in this nation. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that Louise Casey was involved in this latest one.

Heavy Matters

I chaired a remand court the other day and among the cases not on our printed list was a man charged with murder. The lower court has very little to do in a murder case, other than to identify the accused, and remand him to a Crown Court in the next few days. We have long lost the power to consider bail.
These hearings are swift and lack any real judicial input from us. The man looked awful though; he was in prison-issue grey sweatshirt and tracksuit bottoms, and seemed to be in a mild state of shock, which is not surprising when you consider that as a man in middle age he is unlikely, if convicted, to regain his freedom before he becomes a pensioner. Murder is a uniquely awful crime, but the consequences for the perpetrator are awful too.

CPS Under The Microscope

HM CPS Inspectorate published a less than flattering report on the London CPS last year and have followed up with another look at it: this is the press release, and the full report is here. It is over 100 pages long so I have not read it in detail, but a quick scan suggests that CPS in-house advocates in the Crown Court are not well thought of, and those who toil in the grubby end of the trade in front of magistrates aren't too impressive either. The CPS tries to avoid briefing the Bar these days, for cost reasons, and I am sorry to say that a significant proportion of the prosecutors who appear before me are of poor quality. The Associate Prosecutors, qualified to a lower standard, and with limited authority to make decisions, come out of the report quite well by contrast. Our most prominent local AP was looking very pleased with himself yesterday - so much so that he pointed me in the direction of the report when I saw him in the lobby.

More On The Police

I am going to risk the wrath of Murdoch by quoting from the (paywalled) Times site; for one thing, I think he has enough on his plate not to to have to bother about little me (too poor to be worth suing) and for another thing the Times listed this as one of the 40 blogs that really count, and for yet another, I do have a full six quid a week sub to the Times multimedia output (and jolly fine value it is - is that all right Rupert?).

So here goes:-
...the lack of formal educational attainments for entry (to the police) is striking, and could well deter intellectually able people with the right qualities. For too long, policing has been unfairly regarded by many as an occupation with most in common with blue-collar work. The roots of policing are firmly in that context and the attitudes of some police officers remain fastened in that mindset of the past. It holds them back and reinforces the lower social and professional standing that too many people wrongly associate with police officers.

So says Tom Winsor in an article today. I have made more or less the same points over recent months, but I elicited virulent abuse from some bloggers who think that any comment on the way the police is run makes me anti-police. I made the very point about the 'blue-collar' attitude of some officers, and was branded with saying the police were 'below stairs' which I have never said and do not believe.

Anyway, the cat is out of the bag. The management of the police service is fossilised, and its governance is sclerotic. Change is coming, and not before time.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lions Led By Donkeys

There is a well known and outspoken police blogger who won't be too keen on this, I suspect.

Here's an old post of mine.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Just a Thought

A further group of people have been arrested in connection with the News International scandals (and I think that the plural is now justified) including Rebekah Brooks and her husband. I have no comment to make and am happy to let the law take its course, but one thought occurs to me:- if something like this had happened a few years ago to anyone but an NI insider in the days when when the Murdoch tabloid felt, with some justification, that it had special privileges, the squads of police who delivered the dawn knock on the door would very likely have had a Sun reporter and photographer in tow. Do you remember when one of Maxwell's boys was arrested? His feisty wife yelled from a window for her visitors to "Fuck off before I call the police" only to be answered with "We are the police". With any luck that kind of over-cosy potentially corrupt relationship between the press and the police will soon be a thing of the past. A friend of mine who once worked on a Fleet Street paper tells me that stories all carried a price to be paid to the copper passing on the tip off, expressed as 'a drink' ' a good drink' a well-decent drink' and a 'f*cking good drink'. The latter would be good for a couple of weeks spent somewhere sunny.

Jack of Kent commented on the shift in power here.

Friday, March 09, 2012

From The Grapevine

A bit of retiring room gossip tells me that a District Judge was recently rammed from behind by another car when he had the temerity to stop for an amber traffic light. The other driver yelled at the judge for stopping at a mere amber signal.

So far so bad, but the guilty party must have had a nasty surprise to discover that he had not only caused several thousands of pounds' worth of damage but had done it in clear breach of the Highway Code, and to a judge to boot.

Told You So

As I predicted the MP who attacked fellow Members while drunk in a Westminster bar was dealt with by the Chief Magistrate, Howard Riddle.

Someone who has met Mr. Riddle tells me that he thinks he has one of the best jobs in the judiciary, as his caseload is so interesting and varied. He may be right.

Very Useful

Barrister and author Tim Kevan has put a fascinating piece on his blog about a so-called parking fine issued by a private company. Tim's letter would make an excellent template for a response to any other private company that tries to bluff you into paying them money.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Ruined (3)

Here is another case of a lawyer who has abused the trust placed in him, and who quite rightly faces prison as well as professional ruin.

Sometimes one just cannot understand the motivation for an offence such as this. It says something about the previous post on deterrence that a man who must have understood how criminal justice works could risk so much for what was probably so relatively little.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


The reliable core of hardline contributors to our comments are to a man (or woman) convinced of the value of, and need for, deterrence to prevent offending and reoffending. Of course deterrence can work - I would not dream of parking in a location where I might be clamped any more than I would consider shoplifting, that would have different but devastating consequences for me - but I have often pointed out that for someone to be deterred they must possess rational reasoning and thought processes. Drink and drugs, taken in sufficient quantity, will often blank out any deterrent effect, leaving the user to do things that are not just wrong, but manifestly against his own interest. Others simply do not connect actions with consequences, and these people fill our courts every day.

That brings me to Adam, a man in his early forties who could easily pass for 65. I do not know what has brought him to his present state, but his brains are truly scrambled to the extent that he cannot even remember his address. He is an unpleasant nuisance to the local community, prone to urinate and defecate in public irrespective of who might be watching. Inevitably he was given an ASBO a couple of years ago that has entirely failed to deter him; he has breached it nine times and has served numerous shortish prison sentences, sometimes reoffending on the day of his release. ASBO breach can carry up to five years at the Crown Court, and he has indeed been committed there a few times for sentence, receiving up to six months inside. And the entire process has been utterly useless in preventing him from carrying out acts that disgust innocent civilians. Many thousands of pounds have been spent on processing him through the courts and locking him up in a system that simply isn't meant to cope with the likes of him. His problem is more one for the NHS than for the prison service, but there is simply nowhere for him to go, and no money to provide any help.

In his case deterrence is simply pointless. Incapacitation, by locking him up away from the public obviously offers a short term solution, but it is an expensive and inhumane way to deal with a wreck of a man.

Friday, March 02, 2012

JP: 10/10 - C4 7/10

I have just watched Channel 4 News, that has picked up the continuing interpreter story that seems to be going from bad to worse.

The report was a fair one, and included a fascinating clip from Dragons' Den in which the founder of ALS (the new agency that is supposed to have a monopoly on court work)failed to convince the panel of potential investors that he was worth backing.

The Chairman of the Peterborough Bench, Peter Beeke, gave a good and reasoned account of the problems, and came across as the sort of commonsense chap that a Bench Chairman is supposed to be. So ten out of ten to him, but only seven out of ten to C4 News because the idiots used clips of a gavel being banged to illustrate a court.

Note to each and every editor:-



If that's too difficult, try 'COURTS DON'T USE GAVELS' and make every journo in your outfit repeat it a hundred times.


Thursday, March 01, 2012

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot....

A long time ago I posted about Jason. I have stayed in touch with his probation officer, to see how things are going. I haven't heard much of him recently, until I was presented the other day with an Information in support of a Search Warrant to search the home of - guess who? - for Class A drugs.

I granted a similar warrant for a different dealer a month or so back, having heard that drugs were routinely concealed in his baby's nappy or his girlfriend's vagina on the erroneous assumption that police officers and their drug dogs would be deterred or, literally, put off the scent.

It is a truism that most drug dealers live with their mum. Jason lives with his little family in their council flat, and ekes out his benefits with dealing a bit of Class A.

I fear that it's becoming a little late to expect Jason to change. As always, I tried not to think too much about the life that lies ahead for a baby whose filled nappy provides a malodorous hiding place for diamorphine or cocaine hydrochloride.