Thursday 24 March 2016

Justice Committee ~ The Magistracy

On 22nd March the House of Commons Justice Committee took evidence on the role of the magistracy.  I am sure that many will find the session interesting - to say the least!  You may have to wait a few seconds for the video playback to appear.

Reference material:

Sir Brian Leveson (President of the Queens Bench Division) -Review of Efficiency in Criminal Proceedings

Toward the end of the Justice Committee session there is some reference to the "Community Magistrates" in New Zealand - see Restorative Justice in New ZealandDistrict Court Justices of the Peace; and District Court Community Magistrates.

It's also interesting that this IPSOS MORI 2011 report was referred to - The strengths and skills of the judiciary in the Magistrates' Courts

Also, when the committee and its witnesses mentioned benches comprising a District Judge and Magistrates I could not help but think back to the Auld Report in 2001.   I am aware that such benches are convened from time-to-time but the criteria for doing so are not particularly clear.


  1. Magistrates should be able to make whatever appropriate decision they feel bearing in mind the evidence before them. No-one else should have the right to criticise. Magistrates' powers have been gradually eroded and it is pertinent to ask whether the increase in resignations of magistrates is linked to this, as well as the constant messing about with sentencing powers.

    It's obvious the guy from the Prison Reform Trust is going to argue for fewer custodial sentences. Sorry, but if someone needs to be sent to prison, there they should go. No-one is sent to prison by magistrates unless necessary. The woman speaking 'for' us talks nonsense half the time and is clearly out of touch.

    Magistrates do not need training. They are chosen for their qualities of discrimination, fairness, and decency and if they need advice with decision making, that's what the clerk is there for.

    The whole way the magistracy is being treated, and these people who claim to speak for 'us' makes me very thankful that I have already retired. I was very, very proud to be a magistrate and don't regret a single decision. I was lucky to spend my years' work at the best time for the magistracy without all the interference which goes on now.

    Watching this video, I am appalled that the chairman is clearly not listening. His constant 'yes, I understand' is driving me mad!

    The woman is talking about the breakdown/age of magistrates. It should be made compulsory for companies to let their employees have time off for their judicial duties.

    All in all, I'm left feeling very angry, but mostly about the patronising attitude of those who actually know nothing about what it is to be a magistrate.

    1. Couldn't agree more! This from a serving magistrate.

  2. There is also a 'puff piece' from Penelope Gibbs in the Brief (from the Times) today (29 March) which I have to say made my blood boil. Perhaps she should be reminded that female JPs no longer have to wear hats and gloves!! The assumption that we are all middle class white males is certainly not borne out on my bench and while of course it is not a requirement, the fact is that many JPs DO have some legal training and may indeed be as qualified as the District Judges (MC) that sit in the very same courts. I have grown increasingly irritated by the Magistrates Association which certainly does not speak for me on most things and which is an organisation which I am actually proud to say I am no longer a member of!!