A chance for your views to be heard
Have you – as an individual or branch – got something that you would like to see the MA’s members discuss? If so, you can help us to identify new policy priorities and improve what we do by putting forward a motion for discussion at this year’s AGM on 13 October in Manchester.
The Board of Trustees requests clear, concise motions on interesting topics for consideration. Remember that you will need a proposer and a seconder. Please email your submission to MA Chief Executive Jon Collins. The deadline is tomorrow, Friday 10 August.
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 are workshops from the Sentencing Council confirmed and we will be announcing the other workshops and complete timings for all aspects of the event soon.
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
The Lord Chief Justice (left in picture) and the Senior President of Tribunals have published an update on the judicial intranet on the Judicial Ways of Working 2022 consultations. The update identifies some key themes that have emerged from an initial examination of the responses:
- There is an openness to modernisation and new ways of working, provided the foundations of justice are upheld. The use of technology is welcomed but there is also a strong sense that open justice, access to justice and local justice should not be compromised.
- There is concern about the intent of the reform programme, with some expressing the view that reform seems to be driven by the need to achieve savings, and the ability of HMCTS to deliver the necessary and desirable changes.
- Respondents argued that thinking about and planning for tomorrow should not come at the expense of delivering justice in current proceedings.
- There was a clear view about the necessity for IT training as new digital ways of working are developed and implemented.
- Many highlighted the need for continued engagement at all stages of design, particularly as the detail emerges.
This feedback will be used, the update states, to develop jurisdictional views and to inform work with HMCTS to develop further details of the various projects.
As the reform programme develops, HMCTS Deputy Chief Executive Kevin Sadler has also published a blog on 'Realising the potential for video hearings'. It argues that fully-video hearings have 'real potential to open justice up further, save time and expense for all those taking part, and enable vulnerable witnesses to give evidence confidently and safely' and also argues that 'it will always be for the judge to decide whether to use the option of a fully-video hearing or not'. It estimates that in the future less than a tenth of magistrates' court hearings will be fully-video and that less than a tenth of family cases might make some use of video, with most of these involving one or two people joining by video and far fewer being fully-video. The MA has recently met with HMCTS to discuss our concerns about the use of video and look forward to working with them to ensure that these concerns are addressed.
The Family Mediation Council is looking to appoint two independent members to its Family Mediation Standards Board. The vacancy was highlighted to the MA by the Ministry of Justice, who work closely with the Family Mediation Council. The post would suit candidates with a strong professional background and an interest in developing standards. It is not remunerated although reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed. Full details on the position can be found on the FMC website here. Please note that the closing date for submissions is 11 August 2018 – although if you are interested in applying and unable to meet this deadline, please contact the FMC directly to discuss. We would recommend that serving magistrates interested in applying discuss the position with their panel or bench chair first.
The Ministry of Justice has launched a consultation Strengthening probation, building confidence and is seeking feedback on proposed changes to the structure and content of probation services.
The Ministry of Justice's intention is to:
- Introduce changes so that offenders are seen face-to-face at least monthly during the first 12 months of supervision and staff do more to help offenders find accommodation and employment on release from custody
- End Community Rehabilitation Company contracts early and explore with the market how they could put in place a more effective commercial framework for probation services
- Align probation areas in England, helping to strengthen ties with local partners such as voluntary sector organisations, local authorities and police and crime commissioners, and to work with London and Manchester to co-design future probation services in these areas as part of existing devolution agreements
- Introduce a standard training framework for staff across all probation providers, and consult on the implementation of a professional register
- Introduce new delivery arrangements in Wales, which better reflect the devolved responsibilities of the Welsh Government and build on existing local partnerships
The consultation closes on 21 September 2018. The MA will be responding to this consultation – please forward any comments to Andrea Coady.
NEW MA PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL
MA Chairman John Bache comments:
The ideal time to recruit new magistrates to the MA is at their appointment. New magistrates are contacted by the MA national office with all the required information. However, there is a great deal that can be done at local level. Branch representatives are encouraged to:
- Obtain a list of new magistrates, with contact details, from the bench chairman and/or the deputy justices' clerk
- Arrange for new magistrates to be contacted directly by a member of the branch executive
- Attend a session of induction training and explain the benefits of joining the MA
- Attend swearing-in ceremonies and explain the benefits of joining the MA
- Request the judge at the swearing-in ceremony encourage new magistrates to join the MA
We have produced new and improved MA promotional material to help you talk about who we are and what we do. Copies of the new recruitment pack have been sent to all branches and a soft copy may be accessed here: ENGLISH version | WELSH version.
Please contact the membership team with any queries by email or 020 7387 2353.
The Law Commission is carrying out a consultation on the process of approving search warrant applications. The full consultation paper can be found here, and an initial draft response (which also provides a summary of the key issues) can be accessed here. We have drafted a survey covering those questions most relevant to magistrates and would ask anyone with experience dealing with search warrant applications to respond to the survey here.
A new Probation Instruction has been published on liaison arrangements between sentencers and providers of probation services. Agreed with the Senior Presiding Judge, this Probation Instruction (PI 05/2018) took effect on 23 July 2018 and aims to ensure that there is effective communication between sentencers and providers of probation services on issues of joint interest and concern.
At the local level, the Head of Legal Operations and the National Probation Service are responsible for arranging liaison meetings between magistrates and probation providers. The National Probation Service, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, the local Community Rehabilitation Company and Electronic Monitoring Service staff must attend these meetings, which will provide a forum for probation providers to inform judicial office holders about the services available in their local area. They should be held to coincide with local Judicial Delivery Group quarterly meetings, or more often as the chair of the Judicial Delivery Group deems necessary, and judicial officer holders should also be able to request an opportunity to observe probation and prison work in their local area.
The National Probation Sentencer Forum, on which the MA is represented, will continue to provide a forum for discussion of probation issues at a national level.
The Supreme Court has ruled in R(AR) v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester  UKSC 47 that it is appropriate in certain circumstances for police to include details of unsuccessful prosecutions when providing an Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate (ECRC). An ECRC goes beyond a standard Criminal Records Certificate (which includes facts of a conviction or caution or their absence) and can include information that the chief officer believes is relevant and ought to be included in the certificate. The court considered when it might be necessary and proportionate to a pressing need (for example in relation to safeguarding children or vulnerable adults) for the details of an allegation or unsuccessful prosecution recorded on a police case file to be included as part of an ECRC. The details of the allegation and the likelihood that it may have been true (even if the individual was found not guilty) are to be taken into consideration. In relation to acquittals, the importance of a magistrates' court recording reasons why an individual was found not guilty (as per Criminal Procedure Rules rule 24.3(6)) was referenced. Although it was acknowledged that certain amendments had been made to the law since this case was initially dealt with, the court raised concerns about the law governing this process.
Procedural requirements for the police as set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 have been updated in relation to appropriate adults, when they should be called and what support they can offer to vulnerable people in police custody. The National Appropriate Adult Network has produced a guide covering the changes and a really useful summary, which can be accessed here.
The Home Office has also published a Partnership Agreement framework document to be used by local authorities and police and crime commissioners to ensure that the appropriate adult scheme is properly funded and supported.
This report published by the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner presents findings from observations of 170 cases dealt with at the Northumbria Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVCs) between July and September 2017.
The report highlights gaps in the current system and suggests that if funding was improved, SDVCs would work as originally intended. The report also highlights a number of recommendations as to how SDVCs can be improved to provide better support for victims.
The MA sits as an observer with the National Fly-tipping Prevention Group. As part of this group, we were sent an update on some key cases relating to environmental offences that we thought members might find interesting.
Recruitment to the MA’s policy committees
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.
By now members should have received the August-September issue of MAGISTRATE, with features on terrorism offences, trauma-informed work, judicial conduct, the role of intermediaries, the Judicial Office, the new magistrates' appraisal scheme, the national officer elections and much more.
Also, please look out for a regular new feature – Members spotlight – which is intended to demonstrate the breadth of experiences that our members bring to the magistracy and will, over time, show the very different routes that people take to becoming magistrates.
We hope that you like this new development and feedback is, as always, very welcome. Please send all feature idea, feedback, letters, snippets, branch or retirement notices to the Editor, Melodie Hyams.
New cut-out and keep guide
The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) identified a number of concerns with practices relating to installation of pre-payment meters under warrant.
The arrangements governing such installations were deemed insufficient to ensure good outcomes for customers and, in particular, adequate protection for vulnerable people. Following numerous consultations, OFGEM announced modification of the standard conditions of the electricity supply licence, effective from 8 January 2018.
The changes were introduced to protect vulnerable customers as well as to encourage suppliers to pursue other, more suitable, debt recovery methods and to only use warrants as a last resort.
For the full MA guidance on this, please click here.
The Supreme Court will be hosting several open days throughout the summer months, on 24 August, 28 August and 21 September. These events are free and there's a packed programme of activities lined-up to provide an insight into the role of the Supreme Court, including talks given by court staff and interactive workshops. For full information click here.