Friday, August 29, 2014

Beyond Satire

Thanks to Martin B for bringing this splendid story to my attention. Even the immortal Beachcomber would have found it hard to surpass this tale.

Congratulations M'lud

A few years ago I mentioned Sir David Bean , a High Court judge whom I expected to go far. He has just been elevated to the Court of Appeal as Lord Justice Bean, or Bean LJ as he will be known in the law reports. Humble congratulations from a member of the lesser judiciary to a member of a very high level indeed.

Thanks For That

I read that the UK's terror threat level has been raised from "substantial" to "severe".

That's interesting, and I do not doubt it is true,but what, exactly, are we supposed to do with the information?

I am to sit in court tomorrow morning.I shall just have to take my chances, I suppose.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


When I walk into the assembly room on the morning of a sitting day, I never know what awaits me, other than whether I am to be a Chairman (as I usually am). Sometimes one courtroom is down for non-CPS work, such as local authority, TV licences,  RSPCA or suchlike. I am afraid that these sessions can sometimes be very boring, especially the TV cases where 90 per cent of those summonsed do not turn up, so we hear the case in absentia, which makes the whole business rather mechanical.

The other day, in among the Council's failure-to-attend-school cases we were faced with a Fail to Comply with Enforcement Notice matter. It turned out to be a Beds in Sheds case; where a suburban semi had acquired a substantial unauthorised outbuilding that was being rented to recent immigrants for £650 per month. I can't say too much about it, but we imposed a five-figure fine and added on an amount to reflect the gain from illicit use over a couple of years. The defendants were pretty unhappy once they added up the bill, complete with costs and surcharge, and the council added to their woes by serving an assessment for Council tax, backdated two years.

Aerial surveys show these outbuildings to be a large and growing problem. There have been a number of fire-related deaths in these cases, so the council does need to keep a close eye on them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

So Far, So So-So

ITV has come up with a Judge Judy clone, called Judge Rinder,(played, in reality by a respected barrister). The TV set is a shabby pastiche of an American court room, complete with flags behind the bench, and those swing gates that I remember from old US movies.

Unforgivably, there is also a bloody gavel on the pretend bench.   (for those new to the blog, no British court ever uses a gavel).

I looked the programme up, after a couple of ladies in my local pub enthused about the sexiness of the faux judge, and added the caveat that they thought he was camp, and drew the usual conclusion.

I will give it a run, but  I fear that it is unlikely, on the present showing, to improve the public's understanding of courts

This is his day job

Fishy Matters

This piece describes a classic nonsense prosecution.

Only last week I ate a delicious plate of sardines, suitably dressed in garlic. Those sardines were hauled from their habitat, allowed to asphyxiate in the fishing boat, then sent to a fish merchant who filleted them and sold them to a restaurant, where I enjoyed eating them.

What, pray, is the difference, between my eating those sardines, and this sad drunken boy drinking live fish? I hope never to find out whether it is worse to be gulped into someone's digestive juices, or to gasp out my life on the deck of a fishing boat.

No more cash to the RSPCA from me, then (their costs applications are always way above CPS scales)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Age and the Judiciary

Susan, a JP, has emailed to ask me to comment on the fact that JPs have to retire at 70, which would now be illegal in everyday employment.

The entire judiciary, right up to the Lord Chief Justice has to go at 70, (with a very few exceptions) and I have no problem with that. We can't have old codgers like me, in my 60s, clogging up the bench and getting in the way of young fresh people. The late Lord Denning sat on to a very advanced age, but that will not happen in future.

Police Force

A journalist of whom I am extremely fond (all right, he's my son) has sent me this link that highlights the creeping militarisation of the police in some US states. If we are not careful. that might happen here - if you dress the police like commandos and arm them like commandos, they might possibly start to act like commandos.

This is what I thought some time ago.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Search Warrants (3)

Here is the form

And here is the S8 form

Search Warrants (2)

Here is a senior lawyers's view.

He is unnecessarily and insultingly dismissive of lay justices; in any event the JP (or it might have been a District Judge or a Circuit Judge) would have had access to a legal adviser if required. I, and I suspect, most of my colleagues are just as aware of the implications of a search warrant for the liberty of the Queen's subjects as a highly-paid silk.

I reiterate that new legal guidance has been given to every JP about warrants in recent months. It would be naive to discount the possibility that some officers in a certain county might have formed an unhealthily close relationship with one or more compliant JPs, but even then a new and exhaustive form has to be completed by police and judiciary, and that form, in this case, is certain to be rigorously scrutinised.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Search Warrants

The recent search of a celebrity's house raises a number of questions, not least that of who tipped off the press, and why. Troublingly, the Daily Mail has now added a nudge-nudge-wink-wink to its report, to the effect that further witnesses have come forward, without mentioning that they may exculpate Sir Cliff entirely. Does no one believe in Innocent Till Proved Guilty any more?

A lot of guidance has been given to the judiciary in the last while, much of it focused on the great interference in the subject's liberty that a warrant will cause. This excellent blog post gives great detail. An important point that has been neglected in the past is the need to give and record full reasons behind the application for the warrant and the magistrate or judge's decision.

I imagine that lawyers instructed by Sir Cliff Richard will be looking very closely indeed at the reasons endorsed on the paperwork behind this warrant.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


I have no view one way or another on the current news story regarding Sir Cliff Richard;- except that Sir C is reported as saying:-

 "However, the police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except, it would appear, to the press."

That's a bit of a coincidence, bearing in mind the whole brouhaha about certain tabloids. Has some one been on the receiving end of a 'good drink', or am I too much of an old cynic?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Not a Lot of People Know That

A firm of solicitors called Woodfines publish a useful letter updating transport law. I don't do a lot of traffic stuff these days, but I do glance through the key points, and I was amused to read that the limit for HGVs on single carriageways will shortly increase from 40 mph to 50 mph. On dual carriageways, HGVs over 7.5 tonnes will have their limit increased from 50 mph to 60 mph. I have driven a good few miles in my time, and I have never gained the impresssion that lorries travel at anywhere near their limits. And on the motorways, white vans such as Transits and the aptly-named Sprinters often travel at well over 100 mph. The ubiquitous BMWs that hurtle along six feet from the car in front are gradually being replaced by Audis, especially the big 3-tonne 4 x 4s.


The previous post about jury trial has attracted some interesting comments, but I have had an email, for which I am grateful, from a barrister in a respected set of criminal chambers pointing out the potential difficulties of revealing anything that happens in the jury room. I have therefore edited the post (edits in italics) to ensure that the case is not identifiable, and to remove reference to discussions. I repeat my gratitude to M'learned friend.

It is a couple of years or so since I was mentioned on the front page of the Daily Mail, and I would like to leave it at that.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Good Old Jury Trial

Whilst sitting in the retiring room having lunch this week one of my colleagues recounted their time on a jury a few months ago.  They said they found it almost unbelievable, and not in a good way.

After a week and half of sitting around doing nothing other they were put on a two day trial.  The defendant was charged (with an offence).  The evidence, I was told, was absolutely overwhelming.  The jury went out and took a vote.  It was in favour of conviction.  One of (the minority) wanted to question some of the evidence so they went through it, quite rightly, in just the same way that a bench of magistrates goes through the evidence before arriving at a decision.  After the discussion they took another vote, and it became (guilty by a small margin).

Of those for not guilty (one was unwilling to convict for religious reasons and another for reasons of principle)..

They went into court to tell the judge they could not reach a unanimous decision.  (the judge gave the majority direction, but they still couldn’t agree) hence the defendant walked.

Say what you like about magistrates but in my experience I have never seen anyone push a vote in a certain direction as a result of openly expressed prejudices and anyway it would need two of the three to affect the result.

(posted by Bystander N, edited by Bystander)

Thursday, August 07, 2014

George of Arabia

I read that the unlovely George Galloway, MP for Baghdad Central, is being reported to the police for alleged remarks calling for an Israel-free zone in his constituency. The police should keep out of it: this sad old chancer should be denied publicity. Derision is the appropriate response, as I see it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


Give this blog a go:-

It looks very promising.

Another Judge Gets It In The Neck

This story is infuriating on several levels. I have commented previously about the Victim Impact Statements that were introduced a few years ago. They were introduced, as I see it, to give a bogus impression that the criminal justice system is all about victims, despite the fact that the court may not adjust its sentence in response to the Statement. It is a cruel and patronising  fraud on the victims and their families. This is what I thought about it nine years ago, and my view has not changed.

The poor judge is being pilloried for stating a truth that is obvious to anyone in the system.

I suppose it is news because the Silly Season is well under way, and all the grown-up journalists are away in sunny places.


Helen Rumbelow writes in Wednedsday's (paywalled) Times to make much the ssme points.