Sunday, December 18, 2005


The professional and lay staff at my court, along with those in most magistrates'courts in England and Wales, will go on strike next Tuesday. Plans are in place to provide the most basic service, which means dealing with those in custody, to whom statutory time limits apply, and other urgent cases, especially those involving children and vulnerable participants. Many if not most legal advisers will be striking, but the Clerks to the Justices, who are responsible for legal advice to a number of courts will be working because they hold their office under statute. The judiciary, lay and professional, are not involved, and there will be benches available to sit in courts that can accommodate them.

I have no view on the minutiae of the dispute, because I do not understand them, but as an outsider it looks to me as if the Big Bang combining all courts under HMCS last Spring was just a little too much too quickly. There are inevitable anomalies in terms and conditions across the system, and the offer of a sub-inflation payrise seems to have been the last straw for a workforce that includes few radicals.

As ever, the losers will be the public. Magistrates have a very important relationship with their clerks, based upon mutual trust and respect. Speaking for myself, I find the interaction with professional advisers highly satisfying, so I wish them well.

In an impartial way, of course.

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