Friday, November 15, 2013

The Vice Tightens

Ever-anxious as I am to keep you up to date with happenings in the courts, the current squabble between the Magistrates' Association and the National Bench Chairmen's Forum has excited my curiosity about the casus belli that has sparked it. I find it hard to view a bubbling pot without feeling the need to give it a stir, so I have had a look at the document involved. It seems from Gross LJ's report on Judicial Governance in the Magistrates' Courts (you can look it up) that magistrates' fingers are to be further prised from the levers of power in our courts. Hitherto the JIG (Justices' Issues Group) for each cluster of courts has included their Bench Chairs. Now the groups are to be much larger with only three or so Chairmen at the meetings, giving them no say in the management of the courts.
The MoJ has gradually become more centralised, with the de facto abolition of the Justices' Clerks (if not their titles). The old JCs were independent and answerable to their court's committee - now they are civil servants answerable to the Minister, only their legal advice being protected and independent.
Too many in the MoJ see JPs as a kind of lower-level staff to be buggered around at will, and not many of us can see the process coming to an end.


  1. Why do you accuse just the MoJ? Hasn't the Senior Judiciary also taken a lead role in 'modifying' the role of justices?

  2. This was always going to happen once there was a unified courts administration - I seem to remember the then chairman of the MA warning of it in the run up to the passing of the Courts Act. Similarly magistrates pressed in 2005 during the "Supporting magistrates" initiative by the then DCA that they did not want all the really petty, boring work - it could be "out of court" and after the Poolice and Justice Act 2006 said "out of court" really took off. Its use has diminished over the last three-four years and the MA have probably had less to do with that than they think.

  3. It predates the changes in the courts administration. I attended a meeting at which a Chief Mag. (before DJs-MC) saying how JPs will always be needed because there will always be motoring matters to be dealt with by the courts!!! Much of the diminution of the role of JPs has been instigated by the senior judiciary, not the courts administration, despite assurances about how much JPs are valued.

  4. I don't know if the squabble has spilled over into cyber attacks, but the MA website is down again today - the third or fourth time in recent weeks. The best way to silence your critics is to unplug them. But there's an even bigger squabble between the Law Association and a large number of disaffected members who have called for a no-confidence in its leadership vote for December over the legal aid cuts issue.

  5. Lawyers are the priests of the XXI century, and priests always think religion's better off with the laity out of the chancel. They're usually wrong.

  6. "Gang members to be banned from wearing hoodies and owning pay-as-you-go phones in new crackdown
    Baljit Ubhey, new head of CPS, announced new 'robust' court orders
    Would ban gang members from riding bicycles or being in certain areas"
    Since when did the CPS start passing laws?

  7. -Formerly Penguin.
    'not many of us can see the process coming to an end'. I can and, to be frank, I can't wait. I've got one more sitting between now and the end of the year and I'm sorry to say I look upon it as an inconvenience. There was a time when I would have been proud to do it as a service to the community. Time to go, very soon, I think.

  8. Well stop moaning and go on strike en masse! Grow some will you, else you'll continue to (deservedly) get mucked around.


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