Monday, February 15, 2010

Judging the Judges

It's been a while since I've had anything to say about being a Magistrate, and rather untypically for a blogger, I decided against waffling on about nothing.

Administration keep cancelling my sittings and I haven't been able to get any replacements, so I've started getting letters from Management subtly implying that I'm deficient and need to pull my finger out. Quite frustrating - none of the cancellations have been my idea - if they need me to do more sessions, they should list me for more. Or stop blooming well cancelling me.

No wonder retired people are over-represented on the bench - the reality of being a Magistrate is that your sessions will be cancelled and you will have to take replacement sessions at short notice to make your quota. This is likely to hack off even the most saint-like of employers.

Anyway, enough whingeing, today was a day worth blogging, because it was my first performance appraisal.

The way it works is that after your first year as a Magistrate (and every three years after that) , you will be observed by an experienced Magistrate who will look for evidence that you are competent.

There's a detailed list of points they are looking for, but the overall thrust is to check you are following the process, don't have any undesirable personality traits and that you have a plan to become a better Magistrate.

It was quite painless - the business of the day takes precedence, so you just do what you usually do and I almost forgot that one of my colleagues was ticking boxes. The hard part for me was the "plan to become a better Magistrate" - not because I think I'm already perfect, but because I don't yet have a clear idea what I suck at.

The sample development plan includes such things as "I will read the section in my Bench Book on community penalties". I really have a problem with that - who would actually put that as a development objective rather than just, you know, reading the section?

In my case, I haven't yet been able to take part in any multi-day complex trials, so that's what I'm committing to doing next year. Hopefully this will help me get to 26 sessions next year without hassle.

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