In response to the Daily Telegraph article (21 August 2018), and the interest that has been shown in the current rules around people with a criminal record sometimes being able to become a magistrate, MA Chairman John Bache has made the following statement:
'The MA is supportive of the magistracy being diverse and therefore wants to encourage people from under-represented groups to think about applying to be a magistrate. An important part of recruitment is raising awareness about the role and dispelling myths about eligibility. An example which has attracted media attention is the fact that having a criminal record involving a less serious offence (such as certain driving offences) – especially some time ago – would not necessarily prevent you becoming a magistrate. Local Advisory Committees will make decisions on individual suitability but we want to encourage people from all walks of life to consider becoming a magistrate.'
Any member who has a concern about this issue should contact Dr Jo Easton.
Friday 12 – Saturday 13 October 2018 – Manchester
A complete line-up of speakers has been confirmed, to address delegates on a range of judicial matters of particular relevance to the magistracy.
We are delighted to be welcoming the outgoing President of the Family Division Sir James Munby, who will be speaking about the current challenges facing the family justice system and the reforms that may be required. Also joining us is Courts Minister Lucy Frazer QC MP (pictured), who will provide an overview of the primary issues related to court reform and the magistracy. We will also be joined by HM Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey DBE, who will share her views on topics such as community sentences, pre-sentence reports, post-release supervision and sentence confidence. Last but not least, Senior Presiding Judge Lady Justice Julia Macur DBE has agreed to speak again to share her wealth of knowledge around current and future changes to the courts.
There is a workshop from the Sentencing Council confirmed and we will soon be announcing the other workshops and complete timings for all aspects of the event.
Breakfast and lunch will be provided to delegates, which will be a mixture of cold and hot food.
A special rate of £119 is available to all delegates at the Holiday Inn, however please be aware that cheaper rates may be available online.
Book your place
Awards Ceremony and Dinner
Friday evening 12 October 2018
Drinks reception and three course dinner at Holiday Inn Manchester City Centre, 25 Aytoun Street, M1 3AE
We want to celebrate the success and dedication of our branches and individual members, so please get in touch and let us know who you'd like to nominate for the categories shown here. Nominations close at midnight on 9 September 2018, so please make your submissions before then using this nomination form.
JUST TWO WEEKS LEFT TO APPLY
The MA is inviting members to apply to join one of our policy committees and play a key role in the MA’s policy work.
The MA has four policy committees - the Adult Court Committee, the Family Court Committee, the Training Committee and the Youth Court Committee - and we are looking for MA members to join all four. The policy committees are at the heart of the MA’s work to ensure that magistrates play a leading role in the national policy-making process and committee members can make a significant contribution to our work to influence national policy on issues of importance to our members.
Recruitment is open now and applications must be submitted by 7 September. For more details on the role and how to apply, please click here.
Members of policy committees must be sitting magistrates. You don’t need to be London-based as much of our work is done online and travel expenses are covered. To find out more about membership of a policy committee or the committees’ work please contact Jo Easton, the MA’s Director of Policy and Research, by email or on 020 7387 2353.
We continue to regularly appear in the media to promote the magistracy and support the work of our members. In addition to numerous interviews carried out this week on the issue of diversity and recruitment, our National Chairman John Bache appeared on BBC Radio Wales on 14 August to discuss access to justice, court closures, and the need to recruit more magistrates and increase diversity in the magistracy. It is available to listen to here (from 2:16:20).
On 15 August, the Chairman of our Family Court Committee Rupert Holderness appeared on BBC Radio Suffolk discussing the family justice system, legal aid and the challenges presented to the system by the rising number of litigants in person. It is available to listen to here (from 1:11:20).
12 October 2018 at 11:30-16:00, Holiday Inn Manchester City Centre, 25 Aytoun Street, Manchester, M1 3AE
All Council members should have received an email from Jon Collins regarding the next MA Council meeting, which will take place in Manchester the day before the AGM and annual conference. If you have either not received this email or have received it but are not the current post holder, then please contact the national office as soon as possible to let us know at email@example.com. We very much hope that every branch will be represented at this meeting. We think that Council has a vital role to play in informing and supporting the MA's work and we look forward to seeing representatives in October.
If you are not a Council member but there are issues that you'd like Council to discuss in October, please contact your local Council Representative. Their details are available on the MA's website here.
We are pleased to announce that the guest speaker at Council will be the Deputy Senior Presiding Judge of England and Wales, Lady Justice Thirlwall (pictured), who will discuss the reform programme.
The MA has responded to the Home Affairs Committee's inquiry into serious violence. The inquiry follows the publication of the Serious Violence Strategy earlier this year, which set out the Government's response to recent increases in knife crime, gun crime and homicide.
Much of the MA's response focused on the issue of county lines, a growing trend in criminal activity where criminal networks supply drugs to suburban and rural locations, often using vulnerable children and young people as couriers. With this type of criminal activity often leading to vulnerable defendants appearing before the courts for a range of serious offences, the MA stressed the need for greater training and guidance on the issue. We also took the opportunity to call for more guidance on the operation of the National Referral Mechanism for human trafficking or modern slavery victims, and suggested that the strategy should consider the future use of Out of Court Disposals (OOCDs) for young people - highlighting our longstanding concerns with regard to their use for serious and violent offences, such as knife crime.
On the strategy's section on law enforcement, the MA called for greater recognition of the important role of the courts in responding to serious crime where prevention has not been successful, and also echoed concerns around the use of the Metropolitan Police's Gang Violence Matrix, emphasising that sentencers need confidence in any information relied upon when identifying gang involvement.
The full response will be published on the Home Affairs Committee website in due course, and will then be made available on the MA website.
The government has published an independent review of the role of sport in the justice system, authored by Professor Rosie Meek. The review was commissioned to identify best practice in provision across the custodial estate, with a particular focus on health, reoffending and youth custody. The report highlights the need for co-ordination between physical education teams and wider custodial staff, and sets out a number of recommendations for greater collaboration and innovation - including measures to improve leadership, training and evaluation.
In its response, the Ministry of Justice has agreed to review its existing policies on the provision of physical activity in YOIs, and also plans for HMPPS to work with every YOI to develop physical activity and wellbeing strategies. Further proposals include increasing investment in PE to enhance existing opportunities; a review of prison menus to ensure healthy nutritional options; routine screening by healthcare, wellbeing and PE teams for new entrants to YOIs; and the inclusion of PE staff on decisions relating to "keep apart list" policies.
Notably, the MoJ decided not to follow Professor Meeks' recommendations to make boxing or martial arts based activities permissible, citing a lack of evidence about how such activities would translate into a custodial environment.
The MA is currently seeking feedback on measures that HMCTS could take forward to improve support for domestic abuse victims in family proceedings.
We would particularly welcome comments on:
- Options for developing sustainable IDVA services in family justice (Independent Domestic Violence Advisors).
- Whether there are other innovative approaches to supporting victims that HMCTS could support or test.
On the latter, the following initiatives have been highlighted to us as useful examples:
- A family court support role being delivered by Nottinghamshire Women's Aid, which focuses on child and mother safety in child arrangements decisions.
- A coordinator role, funded by the police in Teesside, which aims to develop better links between family court, police and solicitors.
If you have any insight into the value of any similar schemes that are operating in your area, or would like to suggest your own ideas for supporting victims of domestic abuse, please contact Marc Gammon.
Unfortunately, this is a very quick turnaround request, and we will need feedback by Tuesday 28 August.
Prominent family law journalist, Louise Tickle, has launched a new blog exploring how to enhance the scrutiny and accountability of the family justice system. The blog is entitled The Open Family Court, and will consider the future balance between privacy and scrutiny in family law. The project is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Ideas and Pioneers Fund.
In her opening blog post, Tickle sets out an overview of the existing debate surrounding family court transparency, concluding that:
'It is clearly not going to be easy to find a way through the dilemma of how to enhance transparency and openness in family courts while still ensuring children's privacy, but I believe there are huge strides that can safely be made'
With regard to the future of the project, she states:
'My plan is to run a series of consultative events and workshops over the next nine months, drawing on the knowledge, experience and insights of family members, care leavers, social workers, adopters, foster carers and legal professionals...
...Through facilitated sessions, I'm hoping to create an environment where we can challenge and creatively disrupt existing ways of thinking about privacy and free speech in family cases; unpick seemingly intractable problems to work out what they consist of today, as opposed how they looked nearly 60 years ago; and generate thoughtful and safe solutions to a conundrum caused by a law that many feel is no longer fit for purpose.'
The government announced a new Rough Sleeping Strategy on 13 August. A small part of the strategy focused on the criminal justice system. The importance of accessing safe and secure accommodation on release from prison was acknowledged, and the need to improve the resettlement process. In a blog announcing the parts of the strategy relevant to the justice system, Minister Rory Stewart noted the link between homelessness and reoffending as well as the fact that living on the streets increased a person's vulnerability to both abuse and addiction.
Pilots were announced to provide additional support to prisoners 'identified as being at risk of rough sleeping on release'. The pilots will involve additional staff in prisons working on resettlement plans, as well as multi-agency working requiring prisons, National Probation Service (NPS), Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and local authorities to work together to produce plans. In addition, new processes to ensure prisoners can access benefits and employment support on release from prison will also be piloted.
In an effort to ensure accountability, a new metric of 'accommodation on release' will be used to assess performance of prison governors, in addition to CRCs (who are already assessed using this measure). The commitment set out in the Female Offender Strategy to focus on accommodation for women either on community sentences or on release from prison was reiterated.
Public Order Offences Guidelines consultation
This new Probation Instruction (PI 05/2018) has been issued by HM Prison and Probation Service, setting out the minimum liaison arrangements between sentencers and providers of probation services as agreed with the Senior Presiding Judge, Lady Justice Macur. The MA has been vocal about the need for good communication through probation liaison, not just with the National Probation Service but also local Community Rehabilitation Companies, and were key to influencing the drafting of this document via The National Probation Sentencer Forum. The new guidance explains the purpose of liaison, who is responsible for implementing it and the need for judicial officers' observations of prison and probation work to be facilitated.
The Ministry of Justice has issued a press release confirming that offenders are increasingly being ordered to use health services to address mental health, alcohol and drug issues in their five pilot areas of Birmingham, Plymouth, Sefton, Milton Keynes and Northampton. Since the pilot sites went live at various points in late 2017 and early 2018, initial figures suggest that over 400 Community Sentence Treatment Requirements (CSTRs) have been given. Once the trial sites have been assessed, it is intended that the scheme will be rolled out more widely.
The House of Commons Petitions Committee has produced draft recommendations for consultation in respect of online abuse and the experience of disabled people. A summary of the recommendations is here. The draft proposals include recommendations that the government should:
- make it a specific crime to incite hatred because of disability
- look at different ways to enable employers to find out if a person has been convicted of online abuse (but they do not consider that a separate database, similar to the sex offenders register, is needed)
- conduct a full review into the experience of people with learning disabilities reporting crime or giving evidence. In particular, it must develop an action plan to ensure that the appropriate training and procedures are in place so that that adults with learning disabilities are treated as 'reliable witnesses'
The National Audit Office has produced an article on their blog, entitled Adult social care at a glance, which provides a summary of the value of social care, the financial pressures social care faces and information on service sustainability and integration. The article also provides links to their recent publications, their full overview, also called Adult social care at a glance, and their 'think-piece' The health and social care interface which summarise the NAO's most recent work on adult social care.