Gerard Batten said: "For those on low incomes in the mainly rural areas affected, this pushes access to justice out of their reach. Successive governments have steadily eroded the rights of citizens to have their cases heard locally, with local magistrates presiding.
Closing courts will discourage witnesses from attending and make justice harder to obtain. Additional travel costs for the police etc could well cancel out any cost savings made. This is a case of knowing the price of something but not the value. ”
In light of this news, the following article by Les Arnott (former Sheffield JP) gives a personal view of the strengths of the magistrates’ system and why it must be retained:
"In defence of the magistracy
Les Arnott is quite right to question 'the long, dead hand of the European Union' - to which I would add the hand of Call Me Dave, Ken Clarke and any other EU-loving Conservative/Liberal coalition member!
Gerard Batten is completely correct to bring this matter to the public's attention. The amounts of money notionally saved - at 0.02% of the current deficit - are simply trivial in the bigger picture.
Quite simply, the LibLabCon has decided to try to undermine this part of the Justice System and one has to be profoundly suspicious of the motives behind it. The long, dead hand of the European Union and its detestable Corpus Juris are never too far away where this issue is concerned.
The strength of the system is in its tremendous variety where a Bench may consist of a taxi driver, a trade unionist and a landscape gardener, all possessing a high degree of local knowledge. Three heads really are better than one and any lack of legal know-how is more than covered by the excellence of the Legal Advisers - formerly known as Clerks of The Court.
The alternative is to use Stipendiary Magistrates - now known (rather confusingly) as District Judges. Make no mistake, every DJ will probably cost more to run than any 50 lay magistrates - so moneysaving is hardly the key to this. The problem with District Judges for justice is that they sit alone to determine guilt - and they sit alone for sentencing.
That the system is being undermined by Ken Clarke can be little surprise to anybody - is he not wanting to cut custodial sentencing just the same as any other member of the liberal left would desire? All he is doing is kowtowing to the extreme wetness of his coalition partners and following in the criminal-loving actions of the previous government. Tories have always 'talked tough' on crime. The powers of JPs have been systematically eroded by Labour.
David Blunkett was one in a long line of liberal-left Home Secretaries who had reasoned that Magistrates' powers could be curtailed by issuing guidelines on sentencing which became so restrictive as to hogtie justice. It was he who virtually stopped the jailing of people who drive when disqualified inter al. This was carte blanche to many criminals to do what the hell they liked!
Our system for summary justice was probably the finest of any in the world and it is appalling that it should be surreptitiously dismantled when what is needed is to take it back twenty years or so to a time when it was permitted to work exceptionally well. It is a truism to say that the fewer people you 'send down', the greater the crime rates AND paradoxically, the higher the prison population will become! "
When considering the matter of saving money one has to have a certain amount of sympathy with the views expressed by Andrew Withers, Deputy Leader of the Libertarian Party, with a post on Anna Raccoon. Amongst the points he makes are:
"the Country is not insolvent the Government is. We, the Country, have Billions and Billions of assets and cash. Out of a population of twenty million working adults how many are responsible for this unholy mess ?.....Lets treat HMG as an insolvent business in desperate need of rapid turn around......The last thing you do is put your prices up (VAT) to your customers (you and me) and keep the wallowing wage bill in place, and at the same time reduce your service levels.......Do not drag the public into the appalling behaviour of Government, the problem is not us it is you the political elite!.....Start closing down unnecessary Departments of State and Quangos......Stop all wasteful and unproductive activity – Start with Afghanistan we marched in - march out.......There is nothing other than Defence and Foreign Affairs that cannot be done better and cheaper locally and privately."