Friday, 18 May 2012

Magistrates make me mad part 2

A few months ago I wrote about an encounter I had with a lay magistrate.

As it says in the comments section I did eventually decide to make a complaint.

Today I received a letter from the Bench Chairman informing me that the magistrate in question "... agrees that her conduct was not acceptable..." and states that the JP in question will be refered for further training.

I can honestly say I did not expect such an honest and open response.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Why won't they charge?

I've mentioned the apparent lack of enthusiasm the police and CPS seem to have for charging people with crimes and as I sit here billing I am seeing yet more examples of it.

I won't go into detail, but one case I have is very simple and clear cut.  Ex-partners meet up to discuss sale of former home.  One of them gets upset and punches the other in the face several times causing minor injuries.  The suspect is obviously known to the complainant so no ID issues. 

Result: no further action.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Policing the roads - Bike Safe

I spent a rather enjoyable Sunday riding around with the Surrey motorcycle police as part of the Bike Safe programme that many police forces run across the country.

I can only imagine the confusion that some motorists must have felt seeing me fly past both them and a fully marked police rider as we practised overtaking.  I even felt a bit sorry for one silly sod who seemed barely able to ride a motorbike and found himself and his expired tax disc in the middle of a big group of policemen.

The day was good fun despite the early tellings off from the officer observing me to stop speeding - both I and the other rider who spent the day with us found it very difficult to keep the bikes at low speeds especially on the more open roads - and generally doing things that we all do everyday in London, but which are not seen so often on rural Surrey roads.

I learnt quite a lot from the day and would definitely recommend it to anybody else who rides a motorbike and who would like a few tips on improving their riding ability.

The officer I spent the day with made some interesting points about how they police the roads.  In particular, he emphasised that if you want to go speeding around the back roads where the national speed limit applies then they police won't be very interested, although if it goes wrong you'll end up in a pond or in a tree.  But, they pay particularly close attention to speeding in the 30 and 40 limits - generally anywhere you might come into conflict with more vulnerable road users.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The future of the Bar & drug driving

There was a bit of a debate on Twitter last night about solicitor-advocates in the Crown Court.  These debates generally annoy me a lot.  As with last night they'll kick off with a barrister saying something that ridicules or undermines solicitors with no factual basis.  For example, last night the theme was, would solicitors keep a case for themselves even if a barrister would do a "better" job.  In other words, do solicitors ignore their professional obligations and act even where there is a conflict between their personal interests and those of their client?

Now, this is frankly offensive to me as a solicitor.

The Solicitors Practice Rules have long contained rules that require solicitors to put their clients' interests before their own.  There is nothing different between the rule that has existed for a very long time and the current position with solicitors deciding whether or not to instruct Counsel.

Many of the arguments I hear from the Bar is put in the abstract, in other words, you never hear any concreate examples that we can all go and look at the transcripts to see for ourselves.  All you get is, well this might happen.  It is scaremongering and nothing more.  If I claimed that barristers might accept cases that were beyond their abilities to handle just to line their own pockets then I'm pretty sure a whole slew of barristers would line up to tell me it wouldn't or couldn't happen because of this or that.

The attitude of these barristers (who are by no means the majority, but are very vocal) is not surprising.  When I was at Bar School we were encouraged to be rather arrogant towards solicitors.  Solicitors were referred to as the "junior profession" and the Bar students had special areas set aside just for us.  We had a whole suite of teaching rooms and computer rooms where only the Bar were allowed and any solicitors sneaking in would be asked to leave.  There was even a separate library that had a lock on it to prevent any one not on the Bar course from gaining entry! 

These in fights among lawyers really get me down.  Because while we spend all this time arguing among ourselves about whether solicitors are incompetent advocates or whether the Bar is the cream of the advocates we are allowing Government to get away with ruining both our professions.  It is my firm view that the sooner the professions are fused the sooner we can get back to doing out best for our clients both in the court room and outside it in campaigning against Governments intent on removing the rights of our clients.

On a completely different point, I hear that the Queen's Speech will today propose outlawing driving under the influence of drugs.  I have no idea why since I notice that section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 is entitled "Driving, or being in charge, when under influence of drink or drugs."  Would seem this "new" law has already been on the statute books for 24 years.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Go through with your threats

I was court duty today.  I was sat in court minding my own business when I heard the judge mention my name.  I hadn't been listening since I wasn't involved in the case and I'd decided to actually read at least one copy of the Guardian, which I subscribed to on a whim about a month ago and haven't accessed since.

Anyway, I somehow feel that I may be straying from the point.

Turned out that the judge was trying to fathom why the defendant hadn't attended either of his appointments with probation for a pre-sentence report to be prepared and she was asking me to speak to him.  The judge made it clear to the defendant that unless he could explain why he failed to attend to the appointments satisfactorily she would remand him in custody to allow the report to be prepared.

I took him outside and tried to explain the seriousness of the situation; however, he continually told me that he missed the appointments because a close relative went into hospital a week ago.  I asked how that could possibly be relevant since the missed appointments were long before the hospitalisation.  He tried to avoid the point by constantly talking about irrelevant things and claiming that he didn't understand etc etc.  It's worth noting that during the period he'd been unable to comply he'd managed to continue running his own business without a problem, so there's a limit to how far I can believe that all the problems he talked about really prevented him attending a one hour meeting.  The man refused to engage with me and ultimately there was nothing I could do to help him.

Back in court, the judge seemed to have forgotten all about what she had said before and released the defendant for a third probation appointment.

What happened to the threat of immediate imprisonment unless he explained himself?  I do think that defendants and toddlers have some similarities in that if a judge or a parent threatens a consequence if their orders are not obeyed then they should be ready to go through with their threat or risk losing the power of their threat.  If defendants know that they can openly disobey court orders with impunity then why would anybody bother complying?

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Meet your strawman


This is the first time I've tried to include a video on a post, so hopefully the link works.

Bystander on the Magistrate's Blog has previously talked about the people who seem to think that they are only bound by Common Law and not by statute. 

They are in a world of their own.  Some people have suggested that they are mentally ill, but they aren't.  The majority seem to be extreme examples of what happens when you know a little bit about a subject... just enough for that knowledge to be harmful.

The lady in the video asks for help.  The only advice I can give is to stop being so silly as to think the law doesn't apply to you.

I don't know who the police officer in the video is, but I must congratulate him on remaining so calm and polite when faced with such an onslaught of utter rubbish.

Incidentally, I have no idea what the title of this post means, but it seems important to people like the lady in the video, you can read more about their very interesting views by following this link.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Underhand political campaigning

Yesterday I received two odious messages from very different sources.

The first was a phishing email purporting to be from the widow of a Japanese ambassador who is herself on her death bed in hospital who wonders whether I would kindly take care of her son's $15M trust fund until such time as her son "clocks" 21.  It's a scam.  Yet another variant on the advance fee fraud - now she asks for my help, but if I agree then a problem will arise that only a payment from me can solve, but it's okay because that payment will give me access to $15M.  You get the idea.

The other message was a letter from Mr Brett Harrison.  I have no idea who Mr Harrison is, but unless you look very closely it appears he has decided to send me a handwritten note explaining that he is a former Conservative Party worker who voted for Boris at the last mayoral election and who used to work for the police.  He is now completely anti-Boris.  Partly because he says Boris has cut police numbers, which is both correct and incorrect depending on which set of figures you work from.  Ultimately, all that claim highlights is that you can prove anything with statistics. 

Next Mr Harrison complains about a whole range of things none of which have anything to do with BoJo, such as fuel bills, petrol, tax on pensions and so on.

The note appears to be hand written and is written in a very personal style, including scruffy hand writing and mis-spellings.

To my mind, the letter appears aimed at the elderly in particular, whose eyesight is probably too poor to read the tiny writing down the side of the page that tells us that this letter is, in fact, promotional material printed by the Labour Party.  This writing is so small I struggle to read it

Neither the phishing email nor the letter are honest.  They both seek to give me a false impression, on the one hand that a frail Japanese lady wants to trust me with her son's inheritance and the other that a genuine member of the public has independently decided to sit down and write a letter to people campaigning against BoJo and the Tories.

This letter doesn't encourage me to vote for Ken or any of the others.  It is simply negative campaigning designed to undermine the support that Labour clearly believe BoJo has.

Politicians talk about lowering the voting age to encourage participation in elections.  As long as the major political parties believe that ignoring the issues and producing wholly negative election material is the way to engage with voters, people will remain dis-engaged.  Then again, maybe that's the point.  A group of Labour supporters knocked on my door late last week to ask who I was voting for, I said probably BoJo and that I'd voted Ken in the past.  Low and behold I get this letter.  My girlfriend who didn't say BoJo didn't get a letter.