The MA held its Annual General Meeting and Annual Conference at Bristol Marriott City Centre on Saturday 18 November. It included plenary speeches, workshops and the AGM itself and here's a round-up of what took place.
The MA was delighted to welcome three eminent speakers. The first speaker, the Senior Presiding Judge Lady Justice Macur DBE (pictured above left), started with a message from the Lord Chief Justice, praising the dedication of magistrates in giving up their time to administer justice in their communities, and then discussed the key elements of the reform agenda. This was followed by Bob Neill MP (centre picture with Trustee Fiona Abbot and new Chairman John Bache), the Chair of the Justice Select Committee, who thanked the MA for its contribution to his Committee's work and praised the contribution that magistrates make. The final speaker was Robert Bourns, the immediate past president of the Law Society, who recalled his time appearing before magistrates as a junior lawyer before arguing that, while reform is necessary, it must be a means to an end and not an end in itself. More detail will be available in the December/January MAGISTRATE.
During the conference, attendees also had the opportunity to attend two of three workshops: the Sentencing Council on the process of developing sentencing guidelines; a workshop on veterans in the criminal justice system and a third led by the Family Justice Young People's Board, giving a young person's perspective on the family justice system.
Annual General Meeting
At the AGM, the minutes of the previous meeting were agreed, Price Bailey LLP were re-appointed as the MA's auditors and Shyam Sharma JP was introduced as the new Honorary Treasurer. Malcolm Jessop JP, the outgoing Honorary Treasurer, gave his report on the previous year's accounts, declaring the MA's finances to be in a very satisfactory state.
Motions for Debate
Two motions were then put forward for debate.
- This AGM believes that the court estate should be planned on the basis that victims and witnesses are able to attend court hearings in person if they wish.
Proposed by Steve Matthews (South and South East London MA) and seconded by Jane Krause (Cheshire MA)
- This AGM believes that sentences that do not cross the community penalty threshold fail to rehabilitate and calls for sentencers to have the power to add rehabilitative provisions to these sentences where they deem it appropriate.
Proposed by Richard Monkhouse (Greater Manchester MA - pictured above right - in front) and seconded by Rupert Holderness (South West London MA - pictured above right - behind)
Both motions were passed overwhelmingly. The MA will now take them forward in our work with relevant stakeholders.
Minutes of the AGM will be available on the website in due course.
National Chairman's Address
Malcolm Richardson gave his final address as National Chairman of the MA. He set out the various challenges facing the magistracy and echoed Bob Neill in highlighting the lack of a strategy to guide its future development. He argued that magistrates are flexible, adaptable and open to change but that they need to be given a clearer idea of what the reform agenda is trying to achieve and what the magistracy will look like at the end of it. He finished by calling for a criminal justice system that doesn't put cost above access, technology above transparency, or speed above the quality of the outcome.
The new Chairman, John Bache, then thanked Malcolm, the outgoing Deputy Chairman Sheena Jowett and the outgoing Treasurer Malcolm Jessop. He said that he is very much looking forward to serving as National Chairman of the MA and that he hopes to visit every branch during his time in the role – he encouraged all branches to get in touch to invite him!