- Why have MA and NBCF members not been briefed about the existence and purpose of the "Magistrates Liaison Group"? From currently available evidence this group, that appears to have no published terms of reference nor to disclose minutes, took it upon itself to approve the blogging directive without any attempt to brief or consult members of either organisation, and that was approval enough to introduce with immediate effect a draconian prohibition applying to all Judicial Office Holders (JOHs).
- Why was there no consultation? Most members of that Group already knew my real name, but nobody considered it appropriate to ask for submissions from, at the risk of being immodest, the oldest, best-known, and most widely read magistrate blogger with more than 3,000,000 page views and approving reviews in most of the national press. I could hardly be seen as a subversive outsider, given my track record on my bench and nationally.
- Was the Group aware of the clearly expressed guidance from such senior judges as Neuberger LJ that openness and transparency about the work of the courts and the judiciary was important to preserve public confidence and that new media have a part to play in that?
- For the record, His Lordship said:( 2011 speech ‘Open Justice Unbound’), that the Judiciary should:foster the already developing community of active informed court reporting on the internet through blogs, and tweeting; we should support the responsible legal journalists; we should initiate, support, encourage and assist public legal education. The great strength of our society is that it is built on the competing voices of free speech. Justice to be truly open must join its voice to the chorus; and must ensure that inaccurate or misleading reporting cannot gain traction.
- What was the hurry? Why, when I was personally assured by a senior HMCTS person some years ago that there was "'nothing to worry about" did it suddenly become an issue that had to be dealt with quickly and without discussion?
- Who drafted the blogging policy? Who told him to? How much, if any, did he read of this blog before deciding that it was 'inappropriate'?
- The policy was announced on or about the 7th of August. I was asked to meet a senior person on the 8th with no idea what the meeting was about. It turned out to be the blog. Why not tell me?
- The MA, sitting flush on 27 years of my subscriptions, did not make any effort to contact me, even though they knew that I was the most affected person. The NBCF was equally silent. Finally, after my phoning to request a call from John Fassenfelt (MA) and Eric Windsor (NBCF) I managed to speak to each gentleman after a delay of almost a week. What were they scared of?
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Here We Go (2)
The original Bystander writes (the subject of this post being unconnected with court cases) - The recent unanticipated and ill-considered edict on blogging has thrown unexpected and unflattering light on the purpose and the usefulness of the Magistrates' Association and the National Bench Chairmen's Forum. I have been a member of the MA for more than a quarter-century, and I was instrumental in setting up the NBCF when it broke away from being a committee of the MA. The questions that the two organisations need to answer include:-