Two days ago I posted here criticisms of the Magistrates` Association. The basis for that post and others preceding it is the undemocratic nature of that Association and its being unfit for purpose in an age of mass and individual communication capabilities. Its “members` pages on its antiquated website require good luck and extreme patience in order to navigate its labyrinthine structure. One would have thought it would be the first source of relevant news for its 20,000 members. One would have been mistaken.
Saturday`s Guardian/Observer carried a piece about the opinion of the Senior Presiding Judge Lord Goldring that magistrates should keep contacts with Police and Crime Commissioners at arm`s length. After the blunders of previous advice on magistrates` requirements to resign their appointment prior to their standing for election as PCCs ; advice later rescinded, this advice does appear to have more of a logical basis to it. A comparison with the previous situation when J.P.s were able to sit on police authorities is a red herring. These were committees and were not so blatantly political as is a single PCC. Since the new regime came into force perhaps the most positive comment can be that they were opposed root and branch by the police. As a former supporter of their introduction I now have my doubts but of Lord Goldring`s advice I have no doubt: my colleagues would be well advised to adhere to that advice although I would have much preferred if it had come from an organisation which truly represented magistrates after having had agreement with the good Lord. Once more Justices of the Peace are seen to be pawns on the judicial chess board instead of independent knights with their own unique arrangements in the management of their place on the board.
The report seeks to raise the tempo of the situation by quoting a supposed magistrate who might or might not exist; “The guidance has annoyed some magistrates, who believe they are capable of evaluating how they deal with the challenges posed by the appointment of the 41 commissioners. One said: "This is an intrusion upon our independence. We don't need lecturing on how we deal with commissioners." To a limited extent I have some sympathy with that opinion but in the context of a toadying, unrepresentative, beyond its sell by date organisation such as we put up with what can be expected? It is the independent magistracy that is increasingly being regarded as a tool of the establishment whether the “E” word refers to the Justice Ministry, HMCTS, the senior judiciary and more worryingly by magistrates themselves. That situation lies directly at the feet of the M.A. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings."