Friday, June 05, 2009


Update : Contrary to what you may read below, it's not impossible that Defence and Prosecution would agree that a remand was not required and then for the Magistrates to ignore both and lock up the Accused pending trial.

Guess what happened on my very next sitting ...

I'll leave the original text intact.


I was going to write that for me, the worst part of being a new Magistrate is that you have to fill in some really rather inscrutable Monitoring and Evaluation forms.

I love having a mentor - he's been an enormous help and support and he's even forgiven me for disagreeing with him twice in three sittings. However, you can't just have a mentor - he comes with a set of forms that need to be filled in after every mentored sitting, with questions like :-
  • Did you prepare yourself for your role in the judicial process?
You are then invited to answer the questions (and most are just begging for a one word answer) with a list of "skills/knowledge in which I am competent" and "skills/knowledge in which I need to develop clarity"

I find it hard to list "skills/knowledge in which I am competent". How would I know I was competent ? Surely only a competent person can tell me that. All the incompetent people I have worked with were convinced of their competence, and not a few brilliant people had irrational doubts.

Anyway, I somehow managed to say something in the forms about my first three mentored sittings and some of the words have ended up in my mentor's interim report on me. The pressure will nowbe on to find something different to say in the forms for my next three sittings with my mentor.

The thing is, I have plenty to say to my mentor when I talk about my experiences and my thoughts and my plans, but it's just that none of it fits on the form, which is too busy getting me to answer closed questions with lists of the areas in which I have delusions of adequacy.

Like I said at the beginning, I was going to say that this was the worst thing about being a magistrate, but then I read about the Sonnex case and later witnessed a large slice of the media (and the Justice Secretary) apportion some of the blame for this mess to the Magitrates who released Sonnex on unconditional bail for another matter before he killed those students.

This seems a bit harsh considering
  • According to Law, everyone has an automatic right to bail unless there are certain specified good reasons for the State to hang onto them. No such reasons were stated in court
  • In fact, The Prosecution didn't even oppose bail
  • According to the information provided to the Magistrates, the Accused was anyway going directly back to prison on another matter, so the bail was intended as a "technical bail".
I'm sure that given those circumstances, I'd probably make the same decision as those Magistrates, and I would be the one catching the media flak and being blamed by the Minister. Now, that's a lot worse than having to fill in some badly designed appraisal forms.

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