"Welcome to the inaugural issue of the TRUNK, our monthly roundup of branch news. We want our branches to feel connected to each other and hope that this publication will give them a platform to share good practice and celebrate their successes, as well as announce upcoming events and activities.
Our branches regularly go above and beyond, organising events, reaching out to the community and recruiting new members. As Chair, I'm delighted to be able to showcase their tireless efforts. Please read and be inspired!"
John Bache, National Chairman
Buckinghamshire MA Executive and MIC team wanted to promote greater public awareness and understanding of the Family Court and how it works and how it focuses on the needs of children.
Presentation on the work of the Family Court
Oxfordshire MA and Hertfordshire MA had already ventured into this arena with presentations to child contact centres and trainee social workers. Buckinghamshire MA were able to attend and take part in some of these and, adapting materials developed by those teams, put together a template presentation about the work of the Family Court. This is designed to be comprehensive but also modular - so that the presentation can be targeted to the needs of the audience. For example, contact centres are more interested in private law, while social workers are more interested in public law.
This presentation has been made available to the MA MIC resource pool, and numerous branches are gradually growing the number of these presentations they do.
Family Court Mock Hearing competition
In November 2016, Buckinghamshire MA were invited to observe a Family Court Mock Hearing competition run by Bedfordshire MA, and were inspired to trial a similar competition.
Bedfordshire MA were extremely helpful in sharing their case studies and experience, and the first MA Bucks Family Court schools competition took place on Saturday 27th January 2018 at Milton Keynes Magistrates Court. Four schools took part and there was a bevy of VIPs to impress. The students were aged 16/17. They undertook the roles of legal adviser, magistrates, and advocates in very challenging cases about parents disputing which school / holiday their children should go to, and also emotive cases about domestic abuse and requests for non-molestation orders. The branch reports that many lessons were learnt from seeing cases from the perspective of younger people, and discovering how little is understood about what happens in the Family Court and how magistrates make decisions.
The event was a great success and the branch hope to run it again in 2019, with a view to growing it over time into a cross-county competition. If you would like to learn more about how to run your own competition, please contact Marie Brock.
“A key point of the work we have done has that we could not have done it without collaboration with our colleagues in other MA branches. This year we have liaised closely with Berks, Herts, and Oxon MA branches. The development of the TRUNK is we believe a natural move towards us all working together. Long may it continue” Marie Brock, Chair, MA Bucks Branch
Impressive, to say the least, was the unanimous verdict when the Kent MA executive held its May meeting at the Gravesend Gurdwara, a place of worship for North Kent’s Sikh community.
The imposing Guru Nanak Temple, to give the Gurdwara its full name, was built over eight years at a cost of £15 million. It was opened in 2010 and is one of the largest Gurdwaras outside India.
The Gurdwara complex includes three worship halls, which can accommodate up to 1,200 people, plus a sports hall and outside football pitches. It also serves as a community and educational centre for the area’s Sikh community, which numbers around 10,000.
During their visit, which was arranged by Kent MA Secretary, David Gordon, through a Sikh work colleague at the Kent Fire and Rescue Service, members were entertained to an informative talk, a tour of the complex, and a delicious vegetarian curry lunch.
The aim of the visit was to strengthen ties with the town’s thriving Sikh community and, in the longer term, encourage Sikh membership of the Bench. All members who attend the Kent MA AGM on the 19 September will be given the opportunity to have a guided tour of the Gurdwara, plus lunch, before the meeting.
This is a fantastic piece of community outreach and the inspired choice of venue gave the executive a rather lovely change of scene. To learn more about this and perhaps how to engage more with the cultural groups in your area, please contact Lynda Jones.
North East and East London MA held an outreach event at Stratford library on 30th June, where they explained the role of JPs to members of the public, and provided information about the application process. The event was one of a series held in their local libraries, the next of which is scheduled for September and will take place in Romford.
This is a great way of reaching out to the local community and informing people about our work, and an excellent opportunity to engage with people who might otherwise never have considered joining the magistracy.
London mini-conference and AGM
The five London branches are holding another half-day conference for all London magistrates. This year they will be looking at new legislation covering controlling and coercive behaviour. Speakers will be from academia, CPS, programme providers and judicial colleagues. It will be at the London School of Economics, on Saturday 6th October.
North East and East London MA’s AGM will be on Monday 15th October with speakers from the Metropolitan Police Fraud and Linked Crime Online Unit talking about the Dark Net, Cyber Crime and their impact on drug and knife crime. Contact Erica Zimmer for further information.
In April, during National Stalking Awareness week, East Sussex MA held their Spring Training Meeting. The event focused on providing an overview of stalking and the effects this crime has on its victims.
The branch invited a local charity Veritas Justice, an organisation dedicated to the support and advice for domestic abuse, child protection and stalking issues, to speak on the issue.
Attendees also heard from a number of victims/survivors, who gave their moving accounts of dealing with stalking/stalkers, and their not so positive accounts of their experiences with the police and court process, both in the Adult and Family Courts. Although one speaker did praise the judge in their particular case.
As well as branch members, the event was attended by the MA’s Chairman, John Bache; Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne; and East Sussex High Sheriff, Major General JD Moore-Bick.
The branch’s next training event is to be held in November, and the topic will be ‘Mental Health in the Criminal and Family Courts’. All MA members are welcome, so please contact Mark Durell if you are interested in attending or would like to host a similar event.
One of the best – and most challenging – things about being chief executive of a small charity like the Magistrates Association is that no two days are the same and very few days go as expected. Something always pops up to disrupt whatever I have planned!
Most days start at a frenetic pace, as I get my three kids up and ready for school before heading into work via a brisk walk across my local park. This is a good chance to think about what I have to do that day and, if there’s time, pause for a coffee in the sunshine.
Once I get to the office, I catch up with emails from members before getting on with that day’s priorities. Most days the MA also gets at least one query from the media, which we try and help with wherever possible. Promoting public awareness of the magistracy is an important part of our work.
I then normally spend at least part of each day out of the office, meeting with policy-makers or partners, speaking at conferences, carrying out media interviews or attending events on behalf of the MA. At least once a month I also try to attend an MA branch event, getting to know members and discussing their concerns and priorities.
At the end of the day I make every effort to leave by 6pm so I can get home in time to put my children to bed, before catching up with any urgent emails or unfinished pieces of work. Once that’s done, it’s time for dinner, a book and, depending on how the day’s gone, a glass of wine!
Shropshire MA held their AGM on 12th July. It was attended by over 30 members. The business meeting went very well with several new members joining the Executive Committee. An excellent buffet was served, made by the students of Shropshire College, which was followed by two speakers.
The first speaker was David Goodman OBE, Deputy District Judge (Magistrates' Courts) at HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), gave an entertaining and informative talk on changes in HMCTS. He was followed by John Bache, MA Chairman, who gave an excellent talk on changes in the MA – specifically the location, the cultures and the challenges faced by the MA as it moves forward.
The branch hope to organise a training event based on one of the many topics discussed at the meeting.To learn more, please contact Nicola Hughes
Gangs are responsible for some of the most deplorable crimes in London, including an estimated 20% of all violent crime. By April, there had been 51 murders in London, many attributable to gangs. South London is increasingly seeing gang-based offending in all courts and, with Camberwell Green Magistrates Court closing soon, the remaining courts are preparing to take on even more of this work.
With this in mind, on 7 July, South and South East London MA held Gangsta, a training event exploring gang crime. The event was attended by over 50 magistrates and boasted three speakers who are at the forefront of efforts to reduce gang violence in London: DC Laura Quinn (from Operation Trident); Sheldon Thomas, founder and Chief Executive of Gangsline, a non-profit organisation that provides help and support to young men and women involved in gang culture; and Luke, a former gang member.
Laura’s presentation focused on what a gang is, why young people join, the impact of social media and the challenges of investigating and prosecuting gangs. CCTV clips of gang violence, including stabbings, were harrowing to watch.
Luke spoke of his years in gangs and serving time in prison, bravely sharing his story with magistrates! Sheldon, also a former gang member, now advises the government and the police. He founded Gangsline to support young men and women involved in gangs, often from deprived communities. He explained that he sees gang culture as fundamentally a social issue and that probation and courts must consider this better when sentencing.
The event sought to give a greater understanding of the motivations and obligations within gang culture; explore the changing the ways that gangs and gang members interact; look at the issues from a South and South East London perspective; and discuss the connections between gangs, violent crime, the use of weapons, and drug dealing. It was JTAAAC approved and aimed at Youth and Adult Magistrates. MA members and non-members were welcome to attend.
If you would like to learn more about this or get some pointers on organising a similar event, please contact Sarah McLaughlin.
Earlier this year, Central and North London MA held their AGM at the House of Lords. It was a highly successful and well attended event, with Bob Neill MP, Chair of the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, as guest speaker.
Following on from the success of that event, the newly elected executive committee decided on a programme of similar events to engage and give value to its branch members. In June, the branch organised an event at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court, hosting Wood Green Crown Court Judges: HHJ Noel Lucas QC, Resident Judge, HHJ John Dodd QC and HHJ David Aaronberg QC. This was similarly well attended, with lively discussions on local crime and allocation - and excellent food!
The branch’s next event will take place in November, when Emma Arbuthnot, the Chief Magistrate for England and Wales, will be attending as keynote speaker. Contact Sharon Ereira for further information.
Leicestershire Police and the Gangmasters Licensing Labour Abuse Authority presented an overview of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Crimes.
Leicestershire and Rutland Branch MA holds conferences biannually on topics related to criminal justice, though sometimes outside the mainstream of daily bench work. This year’s Spring Conference took place in March, and, principal speakers were Leicestershire Police and the Gangmasters Licensing Labour Abuse Authority. They presented an overview of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Crimes. There has been a marked increase in numbers of both crimes, nationally and locally. Sometimes such crimes are seen in magistrates’ courts under a different guise, such as theft or burglary, where the trafficked individual is the defendant. Car washes and cannabis production are other areas frequently using trafficked persons as slaves.
On 23rd October at their Autumn event and AGM, the keynote speaker will be Professor Guy Rutty of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit.
Previous notable speakers have been our county’s coroner, the police and crime commissioner, the police digital media unit on cyber-crime, and members of the police speaking about female genital mutilation. For more information, please contact John Dehnel
On Sunday 15th July Lancashire County MA hosted an afternoon tea party at the iconic Art Deco Midland Hotel in Morecambe – to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the branch.
The internationally renowned art deco building, first opened as a hotel in 1933, served as a military hospital during the Second World War and was used in the filming of the Agatha Christie’s Poirot. In disrepair, the hotel closed in 1998 and re-opened in 2008 following extensive restoration into a 21st century masterpiece.
The event was attended by magistrates, their friends and family, and honoured guests The Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, The Lord Shuttleworth KG KCVO, President of the branch and Lady Shuttleworth; The High Sheriff of Lancashire, Anthony J W Attard OBE DL, and his wife Patricia; and John Bache, Chairman of the Magistrates Association.
Guests enjoyed a classic afternoon tea in the sun terrace restaurant, flooded in beautiful sunshine and providing spectacular sea views over Morecambe Bay.
1st Prize: £150 - Raymond Kahn (Bedfordshire)
2nd Prize: £100 - Ian Brailey (Bristol & North Avon)
3rd Prize: £75 - Douglas Parish (Black Country)
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