Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Fancy Having A Go?

The MoJ's planning for recruitment to the bench is no better than their usual planning, unfortunately. When I was sworn in in 1985 I became one of about 29,000 JPs in England and Wales; today the Bench is more like 19,000 strong, the drop being largely due to the increase in out-of-court disposals such as fixed penalties and cautions. In the meantime numbers have gone up and down, and during the years of amalgamating benches just over five years ago there was a virtual freeze on recruitment for some time. Now the system is struggling to recruit enough JPs to do the job. Nowadays, the biggest obstacle is the reluctance of many employers to allow JP employees time off. This even applies to public services such as the fire brigade, who used to be known for being relatively generous with time off for public service, but are now more niggardly.

I shall not fill the blog with the minutiae of how to apply, because the website  (www.gov.uk)  is very good, but I can say that if you are even slightly interested in the justice system you should consider applying. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, and your chances are probably better than you would expect

16 comments:

  1. Regrettably reluctance on the part of employers to grant time off is only one of the serious impediments to recruiting from a younger and more diverse pool of applicants. We insist on imposing other unnecessary impediments to recruitment for dogmatic reasons. In my area, a large rural county served by 3 (soon to be 2) court locations, and with virtually no practicable public transport, all new magistrates must agree to sit in all court houses. Even by car, journey times can exceed 2 hours each way. The result of this is that effectively we have the situation where:

    If you don’t have a driving licence – don’t bother to apply
    If you don’t have access to a car every day, all day, on all the days you may be rota’d – don’t bother to apply
    If you have any morning or evening childcare/school run commitments – don’t bother to apply
    If you have any work commitments that may require you to go to the office before or after court – don’t bother to apply
    If you have any handicap that limits your ability to travel – don’t bother to apply

    So. That eliminates single parents, many working people, most disabled, most people without the income to support 2 cars, people who have made a decision to switch to more eco-friendly forms of transport. Need I go on.

    The outcome is that a bench that has progressively become more diverse and representative of its community is now at risk of reverting to the landed gentry and the retired.

    In this day and age, with technology that (should) make setting up a rota that accommodates those with more limited availability, it is foolish to impose artificial constraints that prohibit the recruitment of new magistrates from those areas we desperately need to attract.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Plus, for those of us who like me are new, instead of being able to find the relevant sentencing guidelines in the Bench Book before each case (not always easy), we now have to turn into Ipad experts. I bought one to use at home, but that does not help with what has to be very, very quick location of relevant documents in court. Also, as I can quickly scan a A4 page of information for the relevant parts, I find looking through multiple pages on the Ipad slows me down, and means I cannot make notes so easily either. I am on a break due to surgery, and doubt very much I will be of any use when I return, due to this unnecessary introduction of Ipads. By not updating the Bench Book even if it is retrained, the Magistrate's have basically discriminated against people like me who are not computer experts. Then, add in the expectation that I will drive for up to 2 hours in rush hour traffic there and back, to attend courts I did not apply for, and you have a unhappy magistrate.

    ReplyDelete
  3. And on the subject of the "retired", as Magistrates are automatically cast off at age 70, it's almost a case of (adding to the list above), if you're retired, don't bother to apply.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think Trump is 70 and look where he is going! Two terms and he will be 78 - marbles and all. Quite disgraceful that we are kicked into the long grass when we reach 70 but complaining will do nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Re. the present number of magistrates, an HMCTS consultation paper published yesterday says it’s now down to about 17,200.

    Incidentally, the paper is proposing the abolition of the historic office of Justices’ Clerk, the office that long has protected the independence of the magistracy. This, together with the abolition of Local Justice Areas and the termination (in effect) of bench meetings, means that the total centralisation of the magistrates courts service is now complete after over 600 years of decentralised autonomy. The paper contains the expected fine words about the continuation of judicial independence, of course. Though in the real world we know that magistrates (particularly the newer ones trained by HMCTS in its new ways) will find it hard not to do as they’re told by their civil servant legal advisers who in turn will be doing as they’re told by their HMCTS employers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sub Rosa, are you the Dundee Wifey? I was getting worried. Nice to know you are OK.
      Best Wishes
      John Gibson

      Delete
  6. I'm sorry, and I never thought for a moment I would ever say this, but I wouldn't advise anyone to apply to be a magistrate, the way things have gone and are going.

    I retired two years ago after 20 years on the bench, and am very thankful tht my service was in the 'golden age'. We were able to send people to prison immediately if we felt they deserved it - none of this namby-pamby watering-down of sentencing, not to mention the absolutely ludicrous imposition of ipad technology. I have been told that failure to use this is a disciplinary offence!!!!

    Don't get me started either on alterations in judicial areas. Can you imagine being sent to a court anywhere in Greater Manchester, for example, or in North Derbyshire, where the nearest court is now over 2 hours' drive away and inaccessible by public transport?

    Magistrates once used to be respected members of society. Maybe they still are, if anyone actually takes an interest, (though most people have no idea what they do), but the powers-that-be are intent of destroying this enshrined part of British justicial history and little-by-little, or more-by-more, it's happening, and soon there won't be any magistrates at all.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Becoming a Magistrate is a great way of serving the community and making a difference. Please go along to a court and watch. If you could see yourself on the bench please apply. The future will be very different from the past and I believe that going digital will allow it to become local again. The training is also very useful in your working life, especially decision making.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Just a couple of thoughts on a few issues raised in this post. First - while the use of IPads is not a disciplinary issue it may become one of competance. As we go fully electronic with the Court Store you will not be able to access documents without being able to use it. Having said that, I sat last week when the Court Store went down. Total b****y chaos as work ground to a halt while someone had to find the paper IDPC bundles and photocopy them!!

    Second, potential jurors can now serve up to age 75. There is absolutely NO logical reason therefore why JPs too cannot serve to this age if they so wish. The MoJ is being totally ridiculous if they do not amend this.

    Third, it is indeed daft that people will not be able to serve as magistrates because they will be unable to get to the gradually reducing court centres. I have no doubt that this point was completely missed in the recent report on the future of the Magistracy. The problem of course is that court listing is not equal in all courts - at least it isn't in my corner of South London - and if you cannot sit at both courts then you will miss competancy in certain areas due to the court business matrix. Again frankly there is no logical reason why this should be. For years, both courts did all types of court work and it worked perfectly. Now to be brutally honest, it does not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You say the use of iPads is not a disciplinary issue. What I actually said was that magistrates have been told that if they refuse to use iPads, this is a disciplinary issue.

      Delete
  9. If the courts are not accessible by public transport, how are the defendants expected to get there?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not just the defendants.

      Delete
    2. And if magistrates are having to be reimbursed for driving two hours each way to fheir court sittings, plus extra lunch allowances for the time away from home, how can this save costs?

      Delete
  10. I do want to become a magistrate, and because of where I live, and where I work there are two areas for which I meet the quite proper area-connection requirement. However, according to the website one has to check before submitting an application, neither are recruiting. Indeed not many are, only about half a dozen of the fifty or so areas state they are accepting applications. So unless I move to Hampshire or North London, I'll need to wait until 2017-18 by the looks.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Agree wholeheartedly with your endeavours to get ordinary citizens to apply to become magistrates. It may be worthwhile job but it is also unpaid and yet I do not hear many JPs(magistrates) being awarded at least the MBE for their free services. But politicians are busy rewarding their cronies but not true public servants. I think EVERY magistrates should get at least MBE on appointment then you will see an increase in application from members of the public; at least its an incentive albeit not financial!!!

    ReplyDelete

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.