Saturday, August 01, 2015

So Long, Farewell,........

The wheels of the MoJ have turned and have ground out a quite predictable result.. The 'consultation' on closing courts (which is MoJ code for announcing what you are going to do anyway) has earmarked one of my local courthouses for closure. The courthouse in question is Feltham, and I can find no rational case to oppose the closure. Feltham is an old court, converted many years ago from a music-hall. The first time that I walked in to the magistrates' entrance I saw a lovely Victorian/Edwardian tiled room that was formerly the box office. My initial reaction was to ask for two stalls seats and a Raspberry Mivvi,
Unfortunately, the rest of the courthouse is entirely unfit for purpose, for reasons that I shall not trouble you with.
The bulk of Feltham's business will probably be shunted off to Hammersmith (a DJ-heavy outfit by the London side of the flyover)

I do not have much longer to serve as a JP, but when I go, I shall not miss shabby but charming old buildings like Feltham Mags.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sense of Proportion Needed

This Piece of nonsense is the kind of thing that a case hardened old Sergeant could have sorted out with some choice words of advice in a quiet corner of the canteen.

Put this case in front of any Bench that I can imagine, and it would have conditional discharge written all over it.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Home Again

We are just back from a short stay in Picardie, by the Bay of the Somme. It was interesting to pass through Calais, which has been on TV most nights for the last week or two. As we left, finishing touches were being put to tall fences, topped with razor wire along several miles of the access road to the docks.

Groups of young men, presumably migrants, were to be seen near the lorry parks, but there was no sign of the police.

In the CRS France has some of the most effective riot police around, but they are presumably hamstrung by the impossibility of deciding what to do with the migrants once they are in the bag, as are Kent police.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Legal Aid - A Look At The Reality

This article goes some way to correct the continuing untruth that criminal defence lawyers are little better than their clients.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Old Joke Revisited

This story put me in mind of a case where I was sitting with  a colleague who has an irrepressible sense of humour.

The defendant was driving too fast in an uninsured car that he had no right to drive anyway, and when the inevitable crash occurred he was said to have demolished a length of garden wall along with a front gate. We reached a swift decision, which I announced in my best Pronouncement Voice.

My colleague leant across, and muttered "Did he want any further fences to be taken in consideration?"

I maintained my composure, with difficulty.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Double Standards

The law lays down strict rules about the treatment of children in court, be it as witnesses/victims or defendants. Although I do not sit as a Youth magistrate, I sometimes see a case that has to be sent off to what is flippantly called the Kiddy Court (usually by lawyers).

When this happens I have to make an order under the Children and Young Persons' Act that forbids the publication of anything that might serve to identify the young person concerned.

You will often read a press report that says 'we cannot name the young person involved for legal reasons', and that is as it should be.

But then I look at the current case of a foolish mother, blinded by what she sees as love for her son, who defies a High Court judge and flees with the boy. The court will make a decision on Monday, but today the boy's face is all over the tabloids. When a celebrity is photographed for the popular press, it is the practice to pixellate the faces of the children, but this lad has no such luck.

Just a couple of points, because the drift of the media's coverage is to sympathise with the mother:-

A High Court Judge will have made a decision based on the law, having regard to all the facts, and with the benefit of comprehensive reports from professionals about the case. We have only heard one side of the case, but the tabloid- reading public has been nudged into the conclusion that a mother's love trumps the considered judgment of the law (cue 'out-of-touch' jibes).

Of course, it's a good story, and good stories sell papers, but can we put this one to rest, and allow this little boy and this sadly warring couple a little peace and anonymity?

Friday, June 12, 2015


We were down to deal with a dozen or so sentencing cases last week, most of them with the help pf pre-sentence reports from Probation. Inevitably, a good proportion of the cases were drug-related; either possession (not supply, that usually goes off to Hizonner) or acquisitive crime committed to fund an expensive habit.

Somebody on £65 a week benefit or thereabouts cannot fund a £20-a-day Class A habit without thieving, and for the addict the most usual target is any self-service shop. High-value low-bulk stuff is the usual loot, so we are well used to seeing top-line razors, Duracell batteries, and the inevitable bottles of spirits.mentioned on the charge sheet.

One of our customers was a young woman of 23 or so, a serial drug user an shoplifter. We considered the case carefully, and could not avoid the conclusion that she would have to go to prison (not for the first time).

The report said that she had grown up in care, and that she had been with four different sets of foster parents. That alone would have added to her insecurity, and that is sadly a pointer to going off the rails.

So we did what we had to do, and gave her 12 weeks, of which she will serve 6. It won't do any good, of course.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015


If anyone here knows Andy Coulson, could they ask him if I could have his lottery numbers?

Of course a court's verdict must be final, as I accept, but Mr. C. must have a guardian angel somewhere.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


I was due to sit yesterday, as chairman of a GAP court. Yes, it's new to me too, but it stands for Guilty Anticipated Plea, which gives the court and the CPS an opportunity to allocate the proper resources without wasting too many people's time.

I was unavoidably delayed on my way to court, and since we had a full list of cases, it was decided to carry on with one of my wingers in the chair until I could arrive.

Turning up late is never easy - just popping your head round the door with a cry of "hi, guys" isn't right, so I despatched someone to warn the legal adviser that I was there. So far, so fairly normal, and the bench retired to reconvene with yours truly in the middle chair.

The morning proceeded with its busy list of sentencing and allocation cases, and then we had a break while the new-fangled computerised displays proved too much for the CPS and the usher (to be fair their training was pretty sketchy).

My colleague K who had sat in  was greatly relieved to see me, but when I spoke to the other winger and the clerk, they both said that things had gone just fine, including a couple of tricky cases. So over coffee I gently asked her why she had never put her name forward as a chairman. "Oh" she said "I have never had the confidence". Her 40 minute leap into the deep end has changed her mind, and she will now apply for chair training.

Twenty years ago it was practice, in a quiet (perhaps traffic) court to put a winger in the chair straight after lunch with no warning, thus giving them no time to become nervous. Rules now forbid that, but that was probably a retrograde step.

I have informed the Justices' Clerk that there is a potential chair taker among us, so it is now out of my hands.  I wish her well.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Raving Mad

I have just received an email from the Thames Valley Constabulary asking me to keep a good eye out for illegal raves over the Bank Holiday. Various pointers to rave-type activity are listed, and I am urged to tip off the Old Bill if anything happens in my locality.

But hang on a minute - of course raves are a Very Bad Thing at which people, most of them decades younger than I, listen to loud (and to my ears discordant) music, drink copious amounts of alcohol, smoke dubious cigarettes, and indulge in enthusiastic carnal activities. Of course, I would not want them at the bottom of my garden, and I pity householders who are subjected to a couple of sleepless nights, but really, is that the worst that the police have to worry about?

Throughout the years, nothing has enraged the comfortable middle-aged more than the fear that somewhere young people are having fun.

Shakespeare called it 'wronging the ancientry' and Milton spoke of the 'sons of Belial, flown with insolence and wine' .

Relax, folks , it will all be over well before Wednesday.