Thursday, May 26, 2016

Auld Lang Syne

Reading of the planned closure of Southwark Crown Court took my mind back to the day when I was sworn in there as a JP. The court is situated on the South bank of the Thames, just by the moored HMS Belfast. In fact the ship fills the windows of the jury assembly room.

I shall retire from the bench later this year, but the swearing-in will be a lasting memory.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


This, from a respected colleague, speaks for itself:
I was in court three and one pleasant git shouted at a very pregnant prosecutor 'I hope that baby doesn't get born'.  She collapsed in floods of tears as he was taken out of the secure dock and into the cells.  He did come back and apologise but not before insulting his own nice lady rep (who then refused to act for him)!  

Friday, May 13, 2016

Crime And Punishment

For the last few weeks the media has given extensive coverage to the Hillsborough disaster. The release of the report saw emotionally charged interviews with the bereaved that were understandable, especially given the drama-soaked circumstances. It transpired, as so often happens, that some of those crying loudly for 'justice' had revenge in mind, and that led me to think about the justice that I help to administer. Seriousness and culpability come near the top of our list of things to consider, so let's take a cool-headed look at Hillsborough.
The police commander made an error of judgment in opening the gates to the terraces, a relatively low-level error but one that had devastating consequences. The response of he police and other services was inadequate, and many deaths resulted.
So what would be justice in this case, given the finality of all those corpses?

It appears that the police commander might be liable in law for negligence (although I am not at all qualified to comment on the legal aspects) but what good would it do to punish him?

The nearest parallel that I can think of is in the field of aviation safety. Pilots are able to report incidents fully and truthfully, without fear of being punished. This is by far the best way to build a body of experience to avoid future disasters.

However, and it is a massive however, there are suggestions that there  was a cover-up at all levels, including, incredibly, the methodical editing of police statements. That is what should attract condign punishment, rather than one man's catastrophic failure of judgement.