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April 11, 2022
Keeping the wheels of justice turning – magistrates’ views on justice in the pandemic

What can we learn from pandemic justice? Unfortunately, the Covid inquiry is not going to… Read more

December 22, 2021
Does the defendant in the magistrates’ court get a fair hearing?

The Bellamy review of criminal legal aid doesn’t pull its punches. It paints a picture… Read more

February 9, 2021
Is harassment a crime if the harasser has no idea they are harassing?

Guest post by Alex Reid Until 2017 when my 35-year-old autistic son stood trial for… Read more

February 1, 2021
Why we need to go slow on some court hearings and abandon others

What compromises do we need to make and who should pay the price? The courts… Read more

October 14, 2020
In praise of criminal courts

Sometimes I wish I was not so long in the tooth. Eight years ago I… Read more

September 22, 2020
Do people care about judicial and magistrates’ diversity any more?

Once the diversity of the judiciary, or rather the lack of it, made national news…. Read more

May 20, 2018
The illusion of open justice

The judiciary seem exercised by the future of open justice. They are consulting judges and… Read more

April 30, 2018
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

April 5, 2018
We need to talk about Keres & Co

“Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken” is a great book. It sets out… Read more

March 10, 2018
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

February 23, 2018
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

January 1, 2018
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

December 23, 2017
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

December 7, 2017
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

October 19, 2017
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

October 13, 2017
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

September 22, 2017
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

August 31, 2017
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

August 6, 2017
Rethinking judicial independence – two blog posts

Today Transform Justice is sending two blog posts, one extracted from our new publication, the… Read more

August 6, 2017
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

August 3, 2017
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

July 28, 2017
New report on judicial independence published

Transform Justice has today published a think-piece on judicial independence – a collection of essays… Read more

July 28, 2017
Are judges gagged?

This week the Times announced that Peter Herbert QC (Recorder and Tribunal Judge) is suing the Ministry… Read more

June 1, 2017
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

May 12, 2017
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

May 6, 2017
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

April 21, 2017
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

April 13, 2017
Is judicial discipline either just or effective?

The judicial discipline system is broken. Part-time judges and magistrates are publicly named and shamed,… Read more

April 6, 2017
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

April 4, 2017
Pleading not guilty is not “gaming the system”

I increasingly experience two different criminal justice systems.  One peopled by IT specialists, the police… Read more

April 2, 2017
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

March 26, 2017
Should the judiciary speak out more?

I don’t often agree wholeheartedly with the Lord Chancellor, but when it comes to who… Read more

March 18, 2017
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

March 3, 2017
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

January 27, 2017
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

January 14, 2017
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

January 6, 2017
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

December 30, 2016
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

December 12, 2016
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

December 3, 2016
The mystery of sentence inflation

It is clear that prisons are full to bursting, and that it would be good… Read more

November 29, 2016
Should magistrates get greater sentencing powers?

I risk the wrath of magistrates up and down the land in opposing the extension… Read more

November 26, 2016
Do we need tougher community sentences?

This week the Lord Chief Justice implied that too many people were imprisoned, and that… Read more

November 16, 2016
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

November 6, 2016
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

October 19, 2016
A magistracy in crisis?

The Justice Committee does not use the word crisis in its new report on the… Read more

October 14, 2016
Is the magistracy still a democratic institution?

The magistracy is in theory a democratic institution: representatives of the people sit in judgement… Read more

October 2, 2016
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

September 2, 2016
Where is the line which judges should not cross?

Judge Patricia Lynch certainly crossed a line in a recent case.  A defendant called her… Read more

July 10, 2016
Are court charges setting offenders up to fail?

The dreaded criminal courts charge has been abolished, but courts are still left with a… Read more

July 1, 2016
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

June 23, 2016
Are the best magistrates voting with their feet?

“Sarah” was a magistrate for over fifteen years, and had many years left to serve. … Read more

June 12, 2016
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

June 2, 2016
Do tough sentences deter crime?

Nearly half the British population supports the death penalty and two thirds agree with the… Read more

May 26, 2016
What problems can problem-solving courts solve?

The government is making plans to re-launch problem-solving courts.  These are an American invention, with… Read more

May 7, 2016
The mysterious decline of the community sentence

The decline of the community sentence could be seen to be a good thing.  After… Read more

April 23, 2016
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

April 23, 2016
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

April 9, 2016
Standing alone – the experience of unrepresented litigants

“Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in the course of… Read more

April 1, 2016
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

March 27, 2016
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

March 4, 2016
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

February 24, 2016
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

February 4, 2016
Should judges use instinct?

When Mr Justice Coulson decided to identify fifteen year old Will Cornick, after sentencing him… Read more

January 22, 2016
Should we be prosecuting historic sex crimes?

Today the Prime Minister said “there’s an industry trying to profit from spurious claims lodged… Read more

January 9, 2016
Are judges too soft?

This week judges were again under fire for being too soft.  The Sun described judges… Read more

December 13, 2015
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

November 6, 2015
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

November 2, 2015
Court costs hurt the innocent

New report published today by Transform Justice on whether the innocent should end up bankrupt through getting… Read more

November 2, 2015
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

November 1, 2015
The politics of the judiciary

Should we know how judges vote?  Jeremy Paxman pointed out in the Financial Times on… Read more

October 16, 2015
How to reform the criminal courts charge?

It seems clear that the government will reform the criminal court charge but its not… Read more

October 11, 2015
Do judges need or want more feedback?

In most jobs people find it useful to know what the outcome of their work… Read more

October 2, 2015
The “human cost” of our outdated court system

The new(ish) Chief Executive of the Courts Service, Natalie Ceeney, is worried about the human… Read more

September 17, 2015
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

September 11, 2015
Is the court system collapsing

One of the problems with our justice system is that it is theoretically open, but… Read more

September 11, 2015
Is the court system collapsing?

One of the problems with our justice system is that it is theoretically open, but… Read more

September 2, 2015
Is magistrate recruitment fair?

Magistrates are not representative of the people.  They never have been.  Things were improving in… Read more

August 26, 2015
Magistrates: crisis what crisis?

No-one wants to publicise bad news. New figures on the number of magistrates show serious… Read more

July 17, 2015
Court closure – who cares?

The announcement of the proposed closure of 91 courts came as little surprise to watchers… Read more

July 9, 2015
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

June 19, 2015
More court closures?

The latest HMCTS Annual Report is no bedtime reading but reveals some interesting developments.  The words… Read more

June 12, 2015
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

April 9, 2015
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

March 13, 2015
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

March 4, 2015
A fair justice system…even for the wealthy?

The government’s measures to get more money from the court system affect access to justice… Read more

February 27, 2015
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

February 13, 2015
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

January 18, 2015
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

January 11, 2015
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

January 1, 2015
Is magistrates’ training fit for purpose?

Spend on magistrates’ training has gone down from £110 per magistrate in 2008/9, to £26 per… Read more

December 25, 2014
should judges speak out in response to criticism?

Judges never do media interviews and never give statements about particular cases.  But should they?… Read more

December 18, 2014
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

December 12, 2014
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

November 29, 2014
Is magistrates’ training fit for purpose?

Spend on magistrates’ training has gone down from £110 per magistrate in 2008/9, to £26 per… Read more

November 19, 2014
“Judicial Diversity: Accelerating Change”

For quite a radical report “Judicial diversity: accelerating change” didn’t get much coverage.  It was… Read more

November 9, 2014
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

October 23, 2014
Are judges more or less independent than in 2000?

What has happened to judicial independence and accountability in the last twenty years?  There have… Read more

October 11, 2014
a truly radical English Judge?

Lord Justice Ryder is an unusual judge, having started his working life as an investment… Read more

October 5, 2014
Are courts in chaos?

Two recent articles have given a glimpse of the impact of austerity on magistrates’ courts…. Read more

September 19, 2014
Magistrates…small steps to increase diversity?

If you want to become a magistrate, there are very few areas in the country… Read more

September 12, 2014
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

August 31, 2014
Magistrate numbers: terminal decline?

Magistrate numbers are at their lowest level since I’m not sure when.  Judiciary figures for… Read more

July 28, 2014
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

July 15, 2014
Ann Aiken: a truly different federal judge

On my travels so far, people have distinguished the Federal Justice System from the State… Read more

June 25, 2014
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

June 24, 2014
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

June 24, 2014
Judging the performance of judges – a US approach

There is no doubt in my mind that electing judges is a bad idea.  Most… Read more

June 21, 2014
Bitten by the specialist court bug?

I think I’ve been bitten by the specialist court bug and need to pinch myself… Read more

June 18, 2014
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

June 11, 2014
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

June 11, 2014
US judges – involved or aloof?

This morning in Washington DC I observed a very busy drugs court.  The judge, Gregory… Read more

June 10, 2014
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

June 10, 2014
“Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains”

The symbolism of chains is very strong – for me it evokes slavery and a… Read more

May 30, 2014
Interpreters – a duff contract?

When I was a magistrate,  interpreters were frequent used to aid defendant, witness or both…. Read more

May 23, 2014
Do magistrates need more TLC…and management?

There is low morale on many magistrates’ benches.  This is due to budget cuts, a… Read more

May 16, 2014
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

April 14, 2014
A letter to the Lord Chief Justice

Dear Lord Chief Justice, Of all your recent public appearances, I most appreciated your appearance… Read more

April 9, 2014
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

April 1, 2014
Why have a lay magistracy? The magistrates’ view

‘It’s sort of like the community elder. You sit on the bench, and you live… Read more

March 25, 2014
A pro magistrate government?

Damian Green, Minister of State across the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice is… Read more

March 19, 2014
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

March 6, 2014
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

February 11, 2014
Should magistrates sit alone?

Last week, the government published yet another criminal justice bill.  More change is problematic –… Read more

January 31, 2014
The importance of gay magistrates

Transform Justice’s recent report on diversity made no mention of sexual orientation. This was not… Read more

January 24, 2014
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

January 17, 2014
Are magistrates facing a diversity crisis?

Magistrates are less diverse now than in 1999.  They are on average older and less… Read more

January 14, 2014
Why has the magistracy shrunk?

If the value of the magistracy is justice by the people for the people, why… Read more

January 10, 2014
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

January 4, 2014
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

December 20, 2013
Is further courts privatisation credible?

The involvement of G4S and Serco with fraudulent tagging has been well publicised.  The two… Read more

December 13, 2013
Magistrates: representative of the people?

How representative should magistrates be of their community?  A report came out today from Policy… Read more

December 7, 2013
Let the punishment fit the crime

A fair criminal justice system is one where mistakes can be easily, and fairly painlessly,… Read more

November 17, 2013
Should more ex-offenders be magistrates?

Many ex-offenders are probably already magistrates.  A huge proportion of the male population has been… Read more

November 1, 2013
Is harsher punishment the answer to hate crime?

Mencap and other charities have been waging a campaign for many years to get crime… Read more

October 27, 2013
Sentencing consistency…does it matter?

Lord Leveson gave the Howard League lecture this week on consistency in sentencing, particularly citing… Read more

October 18, 2013
How to retain a vibrant magistracy?

John Fassenfelt, outgoing Chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, has inspired the setting up of an… Read more

October 12, 2013
Radical change in the courts?

Keir Starmer has given a retirement interview to the Times in which he calls for… Read more

September 18, 2013
Should judges be judged?

Judges are perhaps the only public servants left who are not subject to any performance… Read more

September 11, 2013
Better courts: do they need structural change?

Courts in England and Wales get a bad press, being seen as inefficient, old fashioned… Read more

September 1, 2013
Intriguing new interest in magistrates

Why has this government suddenly focused a spotlight on magistrates and their powers?  No-one seems… Read more

July 26, 2013
No privatisation of the courts…or is there?

In late May the Times revealed that the government was planning to privatise courts administration…. Read more

July 19, 2013
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

July 12, 2013
Is post-code sentencing inevitable?

There will always be some differences between courts in their sentencing.  An Inner London court… Read more

July 5, 2013
are the courts prepared for no lawyers?

There have been hundreds of people appearing in courts without a lawyer for a long… Read more

June 28, 2013
Why shouldn’t judges tell personal stories?

A judge was recently reprimanded for telling a cannabis cultivator to “jack-in” drugs. An experienced… Read more

June 21, 2013
What difference do women judges make?

Do women judges make decisions differently to male judges? According to a small scale experiment… Read more

June 7, 2013
Are courts inefficient?

I met an MP the other day and asked him whether he supported any kind… Read more

May 27, 2013
New report on courts published today

and can be downloaded from our reports page. And the Times has written about moves… Read more

May 14, 2013
Does it matter who runs magistrates’ courts?

Why does the closure of every library inspire massive public protest while plans to close… Read more

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