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The death of local justice? How court closures marginalise rural communities
“I have had clients who have told me that they cannot afford to travel from… Read more
Crisis what crisis? Magistrate numbers cut by half
This week I met someone in their 30s who had applied to become a magistrate…. Read more
“The battle is won and lost before the court doors are unlocked”
I start this blog with some trepidation since the subject – a new report on… Read more
Justice or crime control – what should the criminal process deliver?
This guest blog is from Professor Mike Hough, one of our greatest criminologists, who has… Read more
#thelawisnotbroken – court users seem happy enough with today’s courts
A rather confounding survey was published by the Courts Service (HMCTS) this week. It said… Read more
Justice must not just be done, but be seen to be done
Pamela Attfield was interested in putting in a small claim and so wanted to observe… Read more
If we want to reduce domestic abuse, should we be using the criminal justice system?
Everyone involved in domestic abuse wants to stop it. But there is huge disagreement about… Read more
The domestic violence protection order – evidence based policy or policy based evidence?
I am beginning to wonder why the government does any research on justice issues. They… Read more
More in hope than expectation? The government’s digital court reform programme
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the courts need to become more efficient. Saving… Read more
Not the “awkward squad”: unrepresented defendants in the Crown Court
In 2015 when I was trying (with difficulty) to do research on unrepresented defendants in… Read more
Everyone admits short prison sentences are ineffective, so why do the courts still use them?
Hallelujah! A government minister is openly saying that short prison sentences are a waste of… Read more
“Children don’t appreciate they are in court, not on a computer game”
How can it be that vulnerable child defendants have ended up participating in important court… Read more
Remand by skype – the dystopian future for an already broken system
Imagine being imprisoned on remand in relation to a crime you did not commit on the basis… Read more
Guilty until proved innocent – the assumption behind the latest government consultation
One of the reasons for the disclosure problems that have recently come to light is… Read more
Court closures – are they selling the family silver?
If making a tidy sum from the sale of every court were the aim of… Read more
Do charities believe in the principle of rehabilitation?
The reputation of aid charities has had a terrible battering recently. They are wounded and… Read more
And get me to the court, get me to the court, for Gawd’s sake, get me to the court on time
FTA is the bane of a police officer’s life. If a defendant doesn’t turn up… Read more
Court closures – trying to get a quart into a pint pot?
How many courts do you need to close before the system grinds to a halt? … Read more
Does the digital court reform programme risk more “enemies of the people” accusations?
This week some twitter wags pointed out that in having huge technical problems with video… Read more
The potential harm of video court hearings – its not just about crime
“The absence of the applicant in the court automatically depersonalises him/her. His/her feelings and emotions… Read more
The children of mothers in prison – how can we avoid the collateral damage?
“Emotionally, it’s terrible. It’s like they’ve changed so much, they’ve got behavioural problems. They… Read more
When is a consultation not a consultation? More on digital court reform
I have badgered the Ministry of Justice to do a proper public consultation on their… Read more
Why is Scotland raising its age of criminal responsibility, but not England and Wales?
Some independent reviews make a huge difference. In 1964 the “Kilbrandon” report was published. Lord… Read more
Why is the courts service spending at least £30 million on management consultants?
I had heard through the grapevine that the courts service in England and Wales (HMCTS)… Read more
Kicked into the long grass – how independent reviews on justice get sidelined
This is the second Christmas where the Ministry of Justice has slipped out their response… Read more
The question is not why the Scottish prison population has fallen, but why it hasn’t fallen further
If crime falls significantly you’d expect the prison population to fall too. That has happened in… Read more
The mysterious decline of the out of court disposal
In the old days people would talk of the neighbourhood bobby giving a teenager a… Read more
Scotland – where criminal justice is part of social justice
If my family ties were not down south, I would be tempted to up sticks… Read more
Scotland – a far off land of which we know too little?
You would never know from what you read in London based newspapers that Scotland had… Read more
Video links make court into “another virtual experience” – a prisoner speaks
This week is a guest “blog” from a serving prisoner who wrote to me about… Read more
Click here to plead guilty – the latest on online courts
It has gone a bit quiet on the online criminal court front. The Queens’ Speech… Read more
Nobody’s problem – our crazy criminal records system
I often reflect on how and why change happens. Mostly luck is involved and/or influential… Read more
Defendants on video – conveyor belt justice or a revolution in access?
New report on virtual justice (video courts) published today
Convenience is the lowest common denominator of access to justice
Convenience is great when all others things are equal. Making services easy to access is… Read more
Rude judges may have no idea of the harm they cause
The recent twitter discussion of rude judges was disturbing and surprising. Lawyers (particularly on twitter)… Read more
Crime reduction: are we barking up the wrong tree?
What has Richard Thaler’s Nobel prize got to do with the new Sentencing Council draft… Read more
The blame game: who bears responsibility for the rise in the prison population?
I tread incredibly warily in this space. Greater minds than mine turned on Andrew Adonis… Read more
“Lost in translation”? Fighting for your liberty on video
“I’ve only had one good experience with video link, and I’ve had lots of experience,… Read more
No other Western adversarial system denies defendants legal representation
Our criminal justice system is fiercesomely complicated – so complex that the Law Commission has… Read more
The only way to reduce the prison population is to recognise that prison is a dead end
The clarion call to reduce the numbers in prison is being heard. Yesterday the Centre… Read more
Is justice seen to be done in the eyes of BAME communities?
The Lammy review is both depressing and uplifting – depressing because it suggests institutional racism… Read more
Should judges be accountable for criminal justice budgets?
This week the blog is an extract from Rethinking Judicial Independence, a think piece we… Read more
If we don’t know why the prison population is rising, we have little hope of halting the rise
Who am I to comment on Ministry of Justice sentencing statistics? I am neither a… Read more
Why are do we imprison mothers for crimes like tampering with an electricity meter?
Mostly I retain faith in the humanity of all who work in the criminal justice… Read more
Are magistrates second class citizens in the judicial hierarchy?
Magistrates used to be almost self-governing. They controlled the budgets of their court, the employment… Read more
Between a rock and a hard place – should judges be “out of touch”?
This is a guest blog from an experienced magistrate – Benjamyn Damazer – inspired by… Read more
When society fails to protect children, some will turn to serious crime
When a 16 year old is sexually exploited we call them a child, and their… Read more
If we don’t know the impact of any programme, we shouldn’t keep on running it
Learning from failure is good, but not if it takes over twenty years to do… Read more
On screen but disconnected? The reality of virtual justice
I visited Chatham magistrates’ court this week. It’s opposite a busy shopping centre but I… Read more
Post election, can we take a rain check on virtual justice?
The electorate has spoken and we have ended up with a minority Conservative government. The… Read more
Appeals are the lifeblood of a functioning criminal justice system, but we may need a transfusion
No system gets everything right, however well intentioned those involved. Our system of underfunded courts… Read more
Our criminal records system is broken and needs radical reform
Currently anyone who was convicted of shop-lifting twice when they were 12 has to declare… Read more
Ethnic minority defendants have very little faith in the criminal justice system
‘It was me against them. Coming from an Asian Muslim background, I didn’t see anyone… Read more
Do suspended sentences work better than community sentences?
The suspended sentence has a bad name. It is a sword of Damocles hanging over… Read more
Why the crown court is not the right place to try children
The twittersphere is alive with lawyers indignant that children accused of serious crimes are increasingly… Read more
How to increase trust in the family justice system
Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Judges (and social workers) in the family… Read more
Those who plead not guilty are not “gaming the system”
I increasingly experience two different criminal justice systems. One peopled by IT specialists, the police… Read more
Do criminals deserve to be punished three times for one crime?
“An eye for an eye” is a strongly held belief – that those who cause… Read more
The Prisons and Courts Bill – a Pandora’s Box? (2)
Transform Justice has published a briefing on the court reform aspects of the Prisons and Courts… Read more
The crisis in judicial morale – is more money the answer?
Group think is very powerful. There is group think about why it is difficult to… Read more
The new prisons and courts bill – a Pandora’s Box?
The criminal courts charge was a policy fiasco – a charge to be applied to… Read more
How can justice be “seen to be done” in an online system?
The government is proceeding hell for leather with online justice both in the civil and… Read more
Failing to turn up to meetings does not deserve imprisonment
Only in our mad, mad criminal justice system would you punish someone more severely for… Read more
A day in the life of a South London magistrates’ court
I spend a lot of time reading accounts of court life on twitter and blogs,… Read more
Magistrates and district judges – two sides of the same coin?
Magistrates and district judges (DJs) occupy the same court space and do more or less… Read more
Does it matter whether judges know the outcome of their decisions?
When I first found out that magistrates do not find out either that their decisions… Read more
Is the magistrates’ disciplinary process fair and open?
It seems slightly odd that volunteers might face disciplinary action involving public reprimands and harsh… Read more
What price should we pay for consistency in sentencing?
Ten years ago there was post-code sentencing for under 18 year olds convicted of serious… Read more
Tacking teenage knife crime – is prison the answer?
“Once two boys tried to rob me. They were bigger than me, but when I… Read more
Is there institutional racism in the criminal justice system?
The MacPherson report on Stephen Lawrence defined institutional racism as “the collective failure of an… Read more
The modern ballad of Reading Gaol – a guest blog from Roma Hooper
“In the great prison where I was incarcerated, I was merely the figure and the… Read more
No conviction is trivial – the flaw in online guilty pleas
Very few people in this country understand the implications of a criminal conviction until they… Read more
Why don’t prosecutors pick up the phone to defence advocates?
“The system is overstretched and disjointed. About two-thirds of Crown Court trials are delayed or do… Read more
Does the public benefit from being kept in the dark?
I am a passionate believer in free speech and open justice, but I also believe… Read more
What court process is really in the best interest of witnesses?
No-one denies that the experience of giving evidence in a criminal trial can be traumatic,… Read more
If we want teenagers to stop committing crime why do we make them live alone in bed and breakfast accommodation?
A few months ago an inspection report hit the headlines because it revealed that women… Read more
Is “fair” a dangerous word to use about women and justice?
Philip Davies MP sparked outrage a few weeks ago when his views on women’s… Read more
Why people don’t care how much the criminal justice system costs
The criminal justice system in England and Wales costs a lot – at least… Read more
Are convictions in historic sex abuse cases reliable?
How can anyone judge who is telling the truth now in the case of alleged… Read more
Is the appeal system the only way judges’ mistakes can be addressed?
Ben Butler is an intriguing man. Someone with a history of violence, he was convicted… Read more
Should the number of magistrates be more than halved?
Shailesh Vara, the minister for courts, told the Justice Committee last Tuesday that the Ministry… Read more
Can we curb our addiction to the short prison sentence?
Prison is a dead end, whatever length of time you are there. The courts in… Read more
Eternal punishment- the consequences of being caught twice for shop-lifting aged 10
“I have two convictions. Both happened 38-years ago when I was a juvenile. The first… Read more
Justice Denied? Unrepresented defendants in the criminal courts
Transform Justice has published new research on the experience of unrepresented defendants in the criminal… Read more
Unrepresented defendants in the courts : a travesty of justice?
Unfortunately we don’t have equality of arms when it comes to unrepresented defendants. After a… Read more
Standing alone – the experience of unrepresented litigants
“Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in the course of… Read more
Are magistrates using prison because they don’t know enough about community alternatives?
Its reassuring in a way to see how concerned magistrates themselves are about deficiencies in… Read more
Why wholescale reform of the magistracy should come before increasing their ability to use prison
It is an anomaly in the Western world to have judges with no legal training… Read more
Two thirds of Crown Court trials do not go ahead as planned
The latest report from the National Audit Office on efficiency in the criminal courts makes… Read more
Does the “doctrine” of judicial independence stifle magistrates?
Judicial independence is a safeguard of a fair justice system. Judges need to be independent… Read more
Why do we have so many prisoners who are not convicted?
It is one of the cardinal principles of our justice system that people are innocent… Read more
What is the point of a child serving 108 days in prison?
Youth justice is my passion, and the reason I remain optimistic about the criminal justice… Read more
How many prisoners are languishing in prison who legally shouldn’t be there?
Around 100 people are imprisoned in England and Wales every year for non payment of… Read more
Is confidence in the justice system at rock bottom?
Adults in the UK are more likely to have had experience of a court case,… Read more
Devolution revolution – would it help reduce prison numbers?
England and Wales has one of the most centralised criminal justice systems and one of… Read more
An uncomfortable truth- the strong link between poverty and crime
No-one is saying that poor people commit more crime, or even that poverty causes crime…. Read more
Do children in criminal courts get the defence they need?
The Youth Court is a hidden world, where most child crime cases are heard. The… Read more
Should the justice system financially penalise the innocent?
“If someone is dragged through the courts through no fault of their own and is… Read more
How can the Ministry of Justice get out of a massive financial hole?
It was reported in the Times today that Michael Gove is considering imposing a “levy”… Read more
Why has the criminal courts charge inspired a barrage of criticism?
The Justice Committee wants to know what we think about the criminal courts charge and… Read more
What do victims want from the Crown Prosecution Service?
Political parties have vied to produce policies on how to look after victims and witnesses… Read more
How did the criminal court charge get through parliament?
There are now many protests about the criminal courts charge – protests that have increased… Read more
The invisibility of magistrates – in fact and in policy
How often do you see magistrates – in plays, the news or in documentaries? I… Read more
Of those in magistrates’ court cells, how many really need to be there?
I visited Thames Magistrates Court the other Friday. For one of the busiest magistrates’ courts,… Read more
Are the cuts to some parts of justice costing more than they save?
I’m concerned that the Ministry of Justice is not making the savings it intended to… Read more
A new injustice: lack of legal advice for those who breach anti-social behaviour injunctions
There was concern when the government proposed that the new anti-social behaviour orders should be… Read more
Eviction, damp, harassment – housing problems cause misery but legal help is in short supply
The reality of how people get evicted comes alive in a series of brilliant blogs… Read more
Do politicians use evidence in talking about crime?
Sense about science are worried that politicians don’t always use evidence correctly when talking about… Read more
can we learn from the way French judges supervise offenders?
So much is different in the French criminal justice system from the English, starting with… Read more
Lord Neuberger advocates that justice should be “the best we can do”
The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger gave a very human speech the other… Read more
We need to put restorative justice centre stage if its ever going to work
There is huge goodwill towards restorative justice, but unfortunately goodwill has not really got it… Read more
How can we engage the media in reporting about offenders and prisons?
The Howard League has recently published an essay on how voluntary sector organisations advocating for… Read more
The power of a financial incentive in reducing imprisonment
The Lord Chancellor has given CRCs a financial incentive to reduce offending under a payment… Read more
How open can a judge be? Meet Judge Cristi Danilet of Romania
I never thought I’d meet a judge like Cristi Danilet. At an excellent seminar today… Read more
are new laws the answer to victims’ dissatisfaction with the system?
Victims have long voiced unhappiness about their treatment by the criminal justice system. Their unhappiness… Read more
A fog surrounding unrepresented defendants in the criminal courts
The civil courts are bring thrown into chaos by the number of litigants in person… Read more
Judges feel they are subject to too much change and insufficient reward
A fascinating study has been published based on a survey of paid judges at every… Read more
Radical ideas from Leveson – the impact of prisoner transport on criminal courts
The new Leveson report on efficiency in criminal proceedings contains a number of radical ideas. One… Read more
whence the magistracy? will numbers of JPs fall below 20,000?
Lord Beecham has recently asked some key questions about magistrate numbers. Numbers overall have fallen… Read more
Can you and should you manage the performance of magistrates?
Volunteers are not employees. They are working for an organisation because they want to help…. Read more
Reading between the lines of the Lord Chief Justice’s annual report
The Lord Chief Justice cannot criticise government policy so its worth both reading the text… Read more
New report on difference in cost between lay magistrates and DJs
The way work is shared between lay magistrates and district judges can be a bone… Read more
Right on crime – is it only possible for conservatives to do penal reform?
Danny Kruger presented a great programme for BBC Radio 4 on “Right on Crime”, the… Read more
The controversy surrounding giving magistrates greater sentencing powers
I’m not sure why Simon Hughes wanted to stop magistrates having increased sentencing powers but… Read more
I’m truly impressed by Ireland’s reform of penal policy
I wouldn’t have known about Ireland’s fantastic new penal policy without twitter – @lukecareypact tweeted… Read more
What to learn from the success of the Family Drug and Alcohol Court?
Why has one type of specialist court succeeded in England and Wales while others have… Read more
Doing what works to cut crime – the new LibDem ideas
The LibDems have always supported human rights and open justice. Its a pity that they… Read more
The Lord Chief Justice is proud of judicial training but where is the evidence?
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, recently described the Judicial College as one of the… Read more
Not all US judges are gung-ho about problem solving
I met the retired DA (elected public prosecutor) of Portland and enjoyed his take on… Read more
Why is it so difficult to embed problem-solving courts in England and Wales?
My experience in USA has made me ask why it is so difficult to embed… Read more
How to get the bus to stop right outside the court
Michigan has way more court-rooms per head of population than England. Every town of any… Read more
Therapeutic jurisprudence in action – the Baltimore drug court
In the short time I’ve been in USA I have seen some amazing judges. Or… Read more
The veterans’ court graduation – an emotional experience
I have never seen so many offenders say thank-you in a court as I did… Read more
Setting up the Detroit homeless court- a truly collaborative effort
The effort involved in getting the Street Outreach court in Detroit off the ground was… Read more
Elections for the judiciary in USA – a barrier to penal reform?
In many states of the USA, judges are elected by the people. And in some… Read more
A glimpse into the juvenile court in Washington DC
Most children under 18 are seen by the juvenile court in DC. All court proceedings… Read more
A mental health court in DC – adversarial or inquisitorial?
To my shame, I have never visited a mental health court in England. But I… Read more
Has the West London drugs court closed and does it matter?
The West London Drugs Court was set up in 2007, led by a charismatic District… Read more
How single-minded should those campaigning against the death penalty be?
Sometimes campaigners can stab each other in the back unwittingly. In England and Wales, there… Read more
Working to upskill lawyers who defend children…a shining light in the US youth justice system
The National Juvenile Defender Center is a brilliant idea – an NGO which campaigns for and… Read more
US judges – more innovative than English judges but still lacking organisational power
It’s depressing but also uplifting to hear about the US system of criminal justice. I’m… Read more
Treating child defandants as adults – a US phenomenon
I have arrived in the land of the free only to be depressed about children… Read more
Magistrates and school governors…a similar crisis in diversity?
A report came out this week suggesting that the governors of schools do not reflect… Read more
a piecemeal approach to the fall out from cutting legal aid?
The number of people involved in court or tribunal cases who don’t have a lawyer… Read more
The upsides and downsides of being a magistrate today
“I have been a magistrate for 26 years and I’m as enthusiastic as the first… Read more
How punitive can you be? The criminal justice arms race
How punitive is the man on the Clapham omnibus? It is a subject that divides… Read more
Is the magistracy too middle class? a difference of opinion
Transform Justice’s new research on the make-up of the magistracy was launched at the end… Read more
Diversity matters in the youth and family court too
When I decided to apply to be a magistrate, my passion was family justice. I… Read more
Justice reinvestment – the holy grail for criminal justice reform?
The most effective means of reducing offending lie outside the remit of the justice system. … Read more
Is there a better process for recruiting magistrates?
The magistrate recruitment process takes longer than any recruitment process I’ve ever heard of. Two… Read more
Should legal sanctions be used against annoying people?
This week peers voted against the government’s new definition of anti-social behaviour – conduct capable… Read more
Unrepresented defendants in the criminal court: a ticking timebomb?
“Just watched as court sent unrep’d def to prison. He didnt say a word through… Read more
Crime falls but desire for harsh punishment remains
Crime has fallen significantly yet again by 9/7% depending on which figures you use. Hooray!… Read more
Does the Secretary of State for Justice need to be a lawyer?
Chris Grayling is the first Lord Chancellor not to be a lawyer (I think). Previously… Read more