Saturday, July 26, 2014

There But For The Grace of God......

This Judge (in fact a Recorder, who has the powers of a circuit judge but sits part-time) has been reported to the authorities for apparently falling asleep on the Bench. The usual suspects have lined up to denounce him, and Vera Baird, who ought to know better, has just told the BBC  this casts the criminal system in a bad light, or words to that effect. She is reported thus: 
 Former solicitor general Vera Baird said she was shocked by the allegation.
"It's a pretty personally insulting thing for somebody when you're describing probably the most important event in your life.
"But also what does it say about the state, about judicial governance, about the criminal justice system?"
She added it would reinforce general views that the judiciary "are out of touch".
This is utter nonsense: what it proves is that the judiciary is made up of human beings, most of them well the wrong side of forty, and some a good deal older than that, and therefore prone to nodding off at times
Now if the unfortunate  Recorder  had bullied a witness or misdirected the jury, or committed any one of the judicial sins that amount to misconduct, then they are sins of commission. To fall asleep is a misfortune: I have sometimes felt drowsiness creeping up on me, particularly on a warm afternoon two hours in, in a court with ineffective air conditioning and being forced to listen to an advocate who thinks he is being paid by the yard. I sit with two colleagues, and as I am usually the one in the middle I keep an eye on the other two, and I hope that they will keep an eye on me.
I used to sit with a colleague, now retired, who was a local GP. In potentially soporific cases we agreed to monitor each other.
There cannot be many magistrates and judges who have never come close to dropping off.

I hope that the JCO cuts the guy a little slack. Unfortunately the rules will forbid him from ever disclosing his point of view.

15 comments:

  1. "Vera Baird" & "Out of touch" - how often have they been said together? (Remember the bad old days when SGs & AGs could go on to a High Court judgeship unimpeded - luckily we've been spared Mrs Justice Baird - for the moment).

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  2. I can certainly understand a judge nodding off during a trial. As you say, it happens to us all. What surprises me about this story is that a trial into an alleged rape of a child was being presided over by a Recorder. Raping a child has to be one of the most serious offences it is possible to commit. I would expect the more serious the offence the more experienced the judge. Is that not how it works?

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  3. I entirely agree with your analysis, BS, and in fact find it quite shocking that a supposedly competent QC - an officer of the court herself - should so blatantly prejudge the issues and facts, and feel free to denounce the judge in this case without having heard any more than the barest of outlines of what went on.

    Her comments actually say more about her own unsuitability for public office, let alone judicial responsibility, than they do about the Recorder's conduct. She should face professional misconduct proceedings, inter alia for bringing the bar into disrepute.

    Kate Caveat

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  4. Presumably he was specially 'ticketed'. Us ordinary 'untrained' justices aren't allowed to deal with even minor sexual offences in the youth courts. Incidentally, I am interested but not surprised that three 'celebrity' defendants were all dealt with this week by 3 DJs in our so-called, Magistrates' Courts. In one case, I assume a DJ was brought in specially as I doubt if one sits regularly in that court, but I may be wrong. It might have just been a coincidence in listing! Intriguing that none of the Bystander team ever seem to comment on this.

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  5. Everyone has an opinion on everything, and they have to give it and it is invariable negative.. Its the way the Country is going. .

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    1. There is an excellent Doug Stanhope sketch on that:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84A5OQSmvMQ

      Or google Doug Stanhope opinions.

      Present company excepted, of course. I very much enjoy the Bystander blog/comments.

      Delete
  6. And, of course it was Ms Baird when a junior minister who said that a Judge was guilty of incorrect sentencing because there happened to be an outcry about his sentence. In fact she had to apologise publicly and was lucky to keep her job.

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  7. The same Vera Baird who managed to pick up a CRO number while serving as Attourney General for a serious driving offence and the "Do you know who I am?" incident at Kings Cross station after she refused to clean up the mess her dog left on the platform? Thought so. Hypocritical doesn't even begin to cover it.

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  8. As a new JP many years ago, I was surprised to discover that some of the longer serving colleagues were accustomed to visiting a local working men's club at lunchtime. One day I was sitting as a winger, the Chairman being one of the imbibing faction. The morning seesion went well. However, before the afternoon session the court clerk spoke to me and the other winger. He warned us to watch the Chairman - he expected him to fall asleep, but was concerned that he might snore. Our job as wingers was to try to keep him awake, but under no circumstances allow him to snore. He did nod off, and jerk awake when prodded. He did not snore. In the retiring room, he made an excellent analysis of the case, and guided the bench to a just outcome. I admit I was amazed. I later found out that all the court users: prosecutors, defence, ushers etc knew of his tendency to nod off, but did not complain because of his ability to get to the heart of a case. I do not condone his behaviour, but despite it he was a good magistrate.

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  9. I've been on a jury a couple of times and nearly nodded off on both occasions due to the repetitious nature of some part of the proceedings. I'd hate to have to listen to trials as a full time job!

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  10. English Pensioner - there's a defence lawyer in these parts who I think tries to use boring the bench to sleep as part of his strategy. I've never nodded off, but I have adjourned for a break because I was aware my concentration was going. I understand why its necessary to ask repetitive questions but I do wonder whether there isn't more that could be agreed before a trial so that the time could be used efficiently on the 'controversial' matters of substance.

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  11. On the point of boring and repetitive questioning, it is of course the Chairperson's job to appropriately intervene if the advocate is asking the same question of a witness over and over. Sadly, this is one area where colleagues can be a bit shy of saying quite rightly to the lawyer 'Asked and Answered Mr/Ms X Move on please'

    And before anyone asks, I have never been shy!!!

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  12. Italian Lawyer28 July 2014 at 16:00

    Attention is increasingly becoming a good in short supply, constantly besieged by an overflow of information of all kinds, as we all are. It's years now that I feel that to be boring , wordy, circuitous, is a serious and unfair attack on other people's time, patience and professionalism. That said, being short sharp and to the point in examining vulnerable witnesses is a bit of problem; it's a case when hearers' patience may well be used up, yet not misused. Of course this too can be brought to an excess.

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  13. I used to be faced with a prosecutor and defence solicitor who proved the truth of reincarnation.

    Three magistrates, all bound to retire at seventy, could not have committed enough sins in one lifetime to deserve these two. It must have been the sins of a past life catching up on us.

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  14. There is often a tactic to drag out an irrelevant aspect to confuse the witness and so make them appear unreliable. Many years ago I was in the public gallery watching a trial where the defence questioned a witness over a slice of toast - for two hours. At the end it was everyone in the whole court that was confused, not just the witness.

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