It was exactly three years ago today that I created this site and posted my first observations. I had been so prompted by the history of a case upon which I had sat a few days previously. The frustration and impotent rage over aspects of our system of summary justice that I channeled into that first effort has probably intensified since then.
In the last three years few aspects of our daily life have escaped the necessity for the general population to pay for the Labour government`s lack of control over the banking system which like some gigantic ocean liner was allowed to become so top heavy with questionable investments that its financial keel could not take the strains upon its stability.
Around one hundred magistrates` courts have been closed and many legal and non legal staff have been made redundant on questionable terms. Indeed our Deputy Justices` Clerk was informed only last week that she had successfully retained her job for which she had had to re-apply. The Crown Prosecution Service is in melt down. Many lawyers have been laid off and the agents who appear in their stead at vastly inflated pay rates are necessarily restricted in their ability to use their own initiative when faced with decisions concerning the manner in which a case should or should not proceed.
Legal Aid has been drastically curtailed and the appearance of increasing numbers of unrepresented defendants is slowing down the throughput of cases to a considerable degree. Legal advisors and bench chairmen have had to adapt to this with their assistance to such people whilst maintaining at all times a disinterested position. This problem is magnified many times over with the increased numbers of defendants whose command of the language might be such that it is prejudicial to a fair hearing. On the other hand there seems to be a trend for foreigners with fairly good English trying to persuade the court that they need adjournments for the court to supply an interpreter. The crisis in the non appearance of interpreters for the first six months this year after the inauguration of a new contract entered into by the deaf, blind and dumb people who inhabit the Ministry of Justice has perhaps peaked. For the sake of the Polish, Romanian, Urdu and Lithuanian defendants who speak the most frequently required languages for which the state needs to provides interpreters the future is hopefully better than the past.
The increasing numbers of District Judges (M.C.) appointed and awaiting appointment combined with the still iniquitous practice of out of court disposals by police has led to a reduction of about 10%+ in the numbers of Justices of the Peace who are being treated with increasing frequency by Her Majesty`s Courts and Tribunals Service as unpaid employees instead of members of the judiciary albeit at the lowest level and serving without payment.
And of course the police in general have had a fair share of criticism notwithstanding praise and sympathy where it was due. The tension between government, the governed and the police will inevitably reach a crescendo by 2015. For every tragedy such as recently happened to two unarmed ill prepared constables gunned down in Manchester there are disgraceful tales of illegality and cover up in the senior ranks. The probable conflicts which will arise from the recent fiasco of the election or non election of Police and Crime Commissioners will be a major feature of the rhetoric preceding the next general election.
The Magistrates` Association whose senior members have been excoriated here more than once is beginning to show that it must reform itself or become a club for those seeking to appear on an honours list. It has a long road to travel but perhaps it has finally realised that its current constitution is no longer suitable for the current century.
This post cannot conclude without reference to the so called guidance on blogging issued by the Senior Presiding Judge in August. Perhaps the most sympathetic comment I can make is that far from offering guidance the document’s content was misguided. Any further comment here would not advance the argument for freedom of speech one iota.
From me a big thank you to all who give this blog a cursory glance now and then and to those who offer their own opinions whether or not in agreement.