Senior Judge bans magistrates from PCC role

Anyone wondering how Police and Crime Commissioners are going to be welcomed by the judiciary may be best advised to think in terms of pork pies and bar mitzvahs.

That at least is the message one picks up from JO Circular AC (5) 2012 issued at the end of last week by the Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales, the Rt. Hon Lord Justice Goldring.

The circular is for magistrates who are considering standing for election as a PCC, or planning to take part in a PCC election campaign, or who intend to apply to become a member of a Police and Crime Panel. Wiltshire Conservatives’ Angus Macpherson JP, Cambridgeshire UKIP candidate Paul Bullen JP and who knows how many others need to take note.

The message is a fairly simple one. 

Judges are disqualified from being elected as PCCs, but the law does not prevent Magistrates from standing, so Lord Justice Goldring has decided that he will stop them from standing. “Magistrates who wish to stand for election, upon announcement of their intention to do so, should resign immediately.”

If they just want to participate actively, whatever that means (leafleting?), they should take a leave of absence. They should not hold meetings with PCC candidates. 

If you do resign to run for election, you are still not free – “former magistrates should be highly circumspect when describing their bench careers.”

The justification for this is twofold – 

1) It’s going to be highly political. (You know, like Solicitor General, Attorney General and Lord Chancellor – clearly offices we could never give to a politician. Oh, wait.)

2) “it would be inappropriate for a judicial office holder to hold an office which has an oversight and leadership role in respect of Police Forces, or to participate in an election campaign for such a role.” (Which neatly misses the fact that until recently magistrates by law were a significant proportion of Police Authorities membership, and that members of the bench are Councillors, MPs, etc).

If you are a magistrate who doesn’t want to be a PCC, but would like to sit on a Police and Crime Panel, then tough. Lord Goldring is directing you to resign. With about 600+ panel members across the country made up of fairly active citizens, this is not going to go down well.

Ironically, the form of judicial independence defended in this direction seems so extreme as to in itself constitute a political statement. This is not merely rules. This is message. And it’s a message which needs to be reconsidered.

I can hardly wait till the day when we can elect our judges. 

 

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16 Responses to Senior Judge bans magistrates from PCC role

  1. Dai Liyanage MBE says:

    This is great news. We have in Kent a Chair of the Police Authority who is also a magistrate using her position to enhance her candidacy for PCC post

    • Ken Little says:

      Dai, I raised this point with Mr Mackinlay a month or more ago Mr Mackinlaydid reply to me he is also a Magistrate (he has taken leave) not of his senses the Magistrate position.

      I also raised this very issue with Mr Hooper CE of KPA about Mrs Barnes but I have been blasted see Police Oracle post, some of those officers have been extremly unkind to me (poor me)! and have had my many responses removed tut tut.

      Ken Little Prospectve PCC candidate for Kent.

  2. Ken Little says:

    I have written a long reply to Sam on this point.

    I also rasised the issue of Magistrates standing as PCC’s I “tapped” Mr Mackinlay Kent PCC candidate on the shoulder about it some time ago, and I wrote to Mr Hooper C E KPA about Mrs Barnes who is also a magistrate on the same subject.

    I can post Mr Mackinlay reply but nothing from Mrs Barnes

    Ken Little Prospective PCC candidate.

  3. This also applies to Magistrates who are members of Community Safety Partnerships :http://bit.ly/RCktIr

    • samchapman says:

      Thanks Mike. I don’t think I can comment on that while staying on the right side of contempt of court! Might need to check the supplied link though – don’t think it’s the right one.

  4. Chris W Drew says:

    This is a simple test of strength.
    All PCC’s will be surrounded by over-weaning pompous senior non-elected officials from every corner of public administration and beyond proferring ‘advice’ and ‘guidellines’ to keep their charges in check. The meek will allow themselves to be pushed around in the way – the brave will hopefully politely challenge and invite the author to do their worst.

  5. There is no logic to this decision at all. All experience of working within the CJS is relevant for such a wide-reaching post as PCC and, as for publicising their work in the courts, I feel the voters should know what qualifies someone to take on the job. I believe my rival in South Yorkshire, Labour’s Shaun Wright, is a magistrate and, in my opinion, that adds to his credentials. I wouldn’t want him to have to step down because of this decision.
    Candidates in this position are faced with the alternative of stepping down from their PCC ambitions or stepping down as magistrates. Both would be a loss. I can see there might be a perceived conflict of responsibilities in someone continuing to do both roles after election as PCC is a big job. In my opinion, the postholder shouldn’t also undertake any other significant “jobs” anyway while in office, specially as the Home Secretary decided (against advice) that there will be no pro-rata reduction to their PCC salary evenif they don’t commit full-time to the role. There will be nothing to stop them claiming additional allowances/income from other sources, in some cases making the local community pay twice for their time.
    A bigger concern for me is those who are continuing to sit on Police Authorities after they have declared as candidates, still drawing allowances and having access to current police information and contacts that might be deemed an unfair advantage. They should do as Ann Barnes did and step down from the PAs immediately, in the spirit of the rules about PCC eligibility.

    • Ken Little says:

      .

      Ann Barnes only stepped down because some say I hounded her out, not sure she would have gone without that “alleged” push.
      Bye the way I did warn her and Mr Mackinlay about this potential bomb shell 6 weeks ago.
      We do not want more “part timers” who believe they can flick from one job to another this post is very well paid, it needs FULL time people.
      Both post serves the community, make a choice, but both? NO.
      The community is fed up with perceived fat cats having more than one job, some do not have one.
      Ken Little prospective PCC for Kent

  6. ianchisnall says:

    I think this response, whilst disappointing for those involved and those who have supporters amongst JPs (that must include many of us – I certainly have now had public support denied to me from a number of friends who are sitting magistrates) is an indication of the nervousness of the judiciary over this role. The PCC is bound to want to influence the administrative work of the courts service as they seek to reflect the views of their electors. The Magistrates and Judges will quite reasonably claim judicial independence and if later on a clear link is made between the person elected and the judiciary or magistracy media tongues will wag.

    I think we do face something of a challenge in terms of process. Technically until 9th October or later there are no candidates. This means that JPs and Police Authorities members etc are in a bit of limbo as they should not be forced to resign, but clearly some feel differently. I think we need to recognise that if say 4 or 5 members of a PA did resign due to being commited to standing, there would be something of a gap between that happening and the PCC elections. This would not send out a good signal IMO.

    The JPs are also in a difficult position. One of my competitors is chair of his bench and if not elected he can of course apply to become a magistrate but the bench has lost someone with a great deal of senior experience and he cannot simply be slotted back in to the position he so recently left. There may not even be vacancies on the bench by the time he applies to join it!

  7. Paul Dendle says:

    The Judiciary have been on mission creep since the 1990’s, they are acting in a pseudo political role, challenging parliaments will and the executive. Since when did we set up a parallel political elite which are appointed by who you know rather that what you know.
    Yes we want an independent Judiciary, but within a job role, not going walkabout.
    This latest missive just brings the day closer of having elected District Attorneys and elected Judges

  8. It’s the same restriction that Police Officers have over their private lives and arises from the separation of powers, the executive , the judiciary and legislature. You will all know this of course being professionals in this field.
    It does tend to highlight how badly drafted and considered this think tank nonsense is.

  9. Duke says:

    “You know, like Solicitor General, Attorney General and Lord Chancellor – clearly offices we could never give to a politician. Oh, wait.”
    But those aren’t judicial roles. The AG is a lawyer and the Lord Chancellor had most of his powers over the judiciary removed by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 precisely for this reason; it was considered constitutionally inappropriate to have a political officer controlling judges.

    There are very good reasons why many countries in the western world try to ensure their judges (and by extension, magistrates) are politically neutral and independent of both politicians and the police. The last thing we want is for judges to be tempted into making rulings based not on what the law says, but on what will win them the most votes.

  10. It didn`t take long for HH to realise that he`d overegged the pudding and so he sensibly revised the guidelines:-

    “Given that several serving magistrates were selected as candidates before the guidance and appreciating that the elections will be in November, it seems to me appropriate in respect of the present elections not to press the following part of the guidance. Provided a magistrate undertakes not to sit from the time of his/her selection as a candidate, and to resign if elected, he/she may resume sitting if not elected. In other words, in respect of the present elections, it will not be necessary to resign upon announcing an intention to stand. No doubt those magistrates seeking election will conduct themselves in such a fashion as not to compromise their ability to return to their Bench as an independent and impartial member of the judiciary.

    I make it plain too, that although discussed and approved by the Magistrates’ Liaison Group (on which magistrates are represented), I am always prepared to discuss the terms of the guidance in due course with any magistrates who remain concerned.

    Lord Justice Goldring
    10 August 2012″

    • Ken Little says:

      I agree totally.
      I raised the same NOW adopted position about this issue weeks ago at least Mr Mackinlay {Kent} replied to my e mail and stated he had taken leave of absence.

      Mrs Barnes, I got nothing not even an acknowledgement but in fairness that may be because I also raised the issue about Mrs Barnes sitting on the APA that opposed PCC with the APA over many weeks.
      I note now she has resigned from that board it took some time but I kept raising it with the APA Mrs Barnes and the APA finally both saw the logic behind my reasoning.

      Ken Little prospective PCC candidate for Kent.

      • Ken, I am not too worried about magistrates but this role is not political and politicians should not stand for PCCs. It is worse when “Independent” candidates pretend to be non-political and stage a political campaign using Tory Blue as the campaign colours and campaign managed by Peter Carroll who was the Parliamentary candidate for the LIB DEMS in Maidstone. Unofficial LIB DEM candidate is trying to be all things to all people!

  11. Pingback: Expect More? | TopOfTheCops.com

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