Monday, August 21, 2006


Magistrates in England and Wales either have or are to be issued with photo-IDs. The cards will be in a standard format and will include a photograph. The JP has the choice as to how his name appears on the card, such as John Smith, Mr. John Smith, J. Smith JP, or whatever.

These IDs will not be worn in court, but are to help in gaining access to secure areas of courthouses, and to courts and other Courts' Service premises where the user may be a visitor.

This is a major break with previous practice. When I was appointed we were sternly informed that there were no badges, ties or cufflinks, nor ladies' equivalents for magistrates. The use of JP after your name was strictly limited to official documents. Under no circumstances might it appear on election literature, or in any context where the user might appear to be using it for his own advantage. The reason was obvious: if even a tiny minority of idiots tried to use their office to throw their weight about the whole magistracy's reputation could suffer.

One fool on my bench made a huge fuss in the Post Office one day in the 1980s because he was unable, for technical reasons, to re-licence his car. He jumped up and down, demanded to see the manager, and said that no magistrate should have to drive around untaxed, and all the rest of it( it was the last day of the month).

He quietly disappeared from the bench a while later. I was far too junior to find out what had happened, but my guess is that he fell on his sword after a few hints from the Bench Chairman and the Clerk.

Since then the Lord Chancellor has relaxed the rules on the use of JP (if you are really interested it's somewhere on the Magistrates' Association website) because he feels that the community ought to know who these people are. I agree. Openness is not always comfortable, but any secrecy in the administration of justice is bound to arouse understandable suspicions.

Come to think of it, that's one of the reasons for my starting this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Posts are pre-moderated. Please bear with us if this takes a little time, but the number of bores and obsessives was getting out of hand, as were the fake comments advertising rubbish.