Sunday, September 29, 2013


Just a word to say why it's been a bit quiet here . Holidays and unexpected family visits have got in the way of our usual stuff, and something had to give. Lots of comment-worthy things have come up, so we hope to get stuck in soon.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Me Voici Encore

So here I am, back in the  Royaume Uni, refreshed, relaxed, and pretty well fed and watered. In a moment of weakness I took along my trusty iPad. Le weefy  is not as common in France as the guidebooks tell you (ask for le code weefy in a bar or restaurant and the waiter will charmingly say that it is hors service five times out of ten). Ever reliable is the world's most deservedly successful restaurant chain, known to the young as MaccyD's. Ronald's setup is illimit√©, and gratuit and works. So for 1.3 € for a coffee you can tap away as long as you like. I didn't (being reluctant to push my luck with my beloved's tolerance) but I made a point of downloading the day's 'Times' and reading as much of the Daily Mail as I could without gagging.

The team have managed to moderate the comments that have come in, and I have made a mental note of some of the issues that seem to warrant a bit more attention. (But give me a break, all you Anons - call yourself Anon 123 or anything you like, but give me a chance to know who is who or which or whom).  This request does not apply to MH because I can spot his style at a thousand yards in heavy fog.

In response to one query, the reasons for my failing to address the future of the magistracy are twofold:- The main one is that I haven't a clue how things will go because I am no longer one of the movers and shakers, and neither do I care that much,

Whatever ministry is to emerge from the next election is a total mystery and anyone who says that he knows is a fool or a knave.  A Minister will be appointed, and like so many of his predecessors he will have no clue where to start, other than peering into his empty purse.

Even the most crusty time server in the Civil Service will be able to recognise the presence of about 24,000 honest sincere and dedicated JPs. He will soon be told by the MoJ hardcore that professionals such as DJs are easier to manage (a chap on a £130,000+ packge might just be biddable, if only procedurally). So what will he do with these JPs who will be subject to natural wastage anyway?

Some rising 35 year-old probably knows the answer, but I am damned if I do. But I have had a bloody good run (pushing 30 years quite soon) and I shall help when I can and shut up when I can't.

Holidays - aren't they great?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

A Busy Day - Eventually

Before getting down to our list today we were forced to hang about drinking coffee and grumbling while our courtroom was taken over to do the case management on a forthcoming tricky and sensitive trial. We finally got going at about 11.15, and from then on we were kept busy. We did a few 'allocation' exercises, deciding on the appropriate level of court that would handle cases, and then we dealt with numerous sentences, assisted (most of the time) by pre-sentence reports from Probation. Heroin, the curse of the underclass, featured strongly and I was reminded yet again of the unmistakable signs of the drug's abuse. Hunched shoulders, pinched and pallid features, hollow eyes, and a hunted expression were present as they so often are. One woman, 33 according to our list, but looking more like 53, was obviously 'clucking' having been away from her chemical comfort for half a day or more. The kindest thing to do was to get her remanded as soon as possible, and away to the meagre comfort offered by Holloway's medical wing.
Wife beater followed shoplifter followed drug dealer (over half a kilo of skunk in the wardrobe, three thousand quid in the bedroom, but it wasn't his - he was looking after the stuff for a friend whom he owed a favour. We decided to let a jury sort that one out.
We mostly stayed within the guidelines, but used our power to go outside them (which is all right so long as we give our reasons in open court).  We were done by 4.30, had a quick debrief with the clerk, and were on our way.

I wasn't sorry to get away as I am going away for a couple of weeks tomorrow. I shall take my iPad to stay in touch, but the Breton cottage we have rented doesn't have wi-fi. I told this to my son, who said: "What! Are they Amish?"

Back in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


The Mail is unsurprisingly one of the papers to feature the release on licence of Jon Venables, one of the boys who murdered James Bulger in 2001. James was two years old at the time, and the boys were ten. The Sun's coverage is more strident, but even BBC Radio news led its 11 am bulletin with the story.
As usual when the case is mentioned poor Denise Fergus, who suffered the trauma of losing a child in horrible circumstances, is wheeled out to tell a reporter that Venables should stay inside still longer. She has taken the place of the late Mrs. Bennett, whose agony at the murder of her son Keith by Brady and Hindley was regularly refreshed  by the press. Both women have suffered terribly, but it is a cruel deception to speak as if grieving victims have a veto on parole. That is why we have a well resourced and judicially supervised Parole Board.
Venables' case is uniquely difficult and I do not envy the Parole Board its task. Knowing that powerful and rich newspapers are keeping a lynch mob in the wings cannot make it any easier.