Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Radio Free Stan's Dog

I'm Stan's dog and unlike Stan I have lots of opinions.

* Jessie J really can't sing
* Bolton Wanderers still lack a proven goalscorer  and look woeful at the back
* The new series of "Vexed" is better than the critics suggest

Airing these opinions does not make me a bad dog and I don't believe it would make me a bad Magistrate either (assuming they ever allow dogs on the couch bench)

If I could steal (bad dog ! bad !) a phrase from "The West Wing"
"Do (people) want to be governed by people who are animated, or animatronic?"
The big idea behind the Magistracy is that it is a representative sample of a community which metes out justice to those who have offended against that community.

It's the "representative" part of the deal that the current guidance on Magistrate blogging is in conflict with. From now on, to be a Magistrate means that you either need to keep quiet about being a Magistrate (as per the Masons) or to have no opinions (like Stan) or to be so unworldly that you don't do social media at all. Doesn't sound terribly representative of my community.

But hey, I'm a dog - what do I know ?


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Some of Stan's Friends could be Magistrates

There's a persistent rumour that Magistrates are to be banned from saying that they are Magistrates while blogging, tweeting or commenting on videos of cute kittens on Facebook.

Furthermore, the rumour is that they will be instructed to remove any past material that doesn't comply with the new diktat on blogs that they "maintain".

Rather than writing it every time, could you please note that Stan does not necessarily have any opinions at all and anything you might have read on this blog to suggest otherwise could have been dictated to him by any number of people, cartoon animals and voices in his head, some of whom may have been serving magistrates.

As to who "maintains" this blog - who says that person is a Magistrate ?

One of the Stan contributors (who may or may not be a Magistrate) tells me that he finds the new guidance to be a heavy-handed infringement of a fairly basic human right and puzzling in the light of the focus put on "transparency" in the current White Paper.

The contributor (also called "Stan" - very confusing) states that he can't think of anything more guaranteed to reduce transparency than legislating against the likes of Bystander's excellent blog - he believes that the guy deserves a medal for services of judicial transparency rather than being threatened with the vague and menacing prospect of "disciplinary action".

The text of the alleged guidance is reproduced below (also available on Bystander's blog - enjoy it while you can)

I still hold out hope that it's a prank - I've asked my bench chairman to verify whether it's authentic - until then I'm not going anywhere.


This guidance is issued on behalf of the Senior Presiding Judge and the Senior President of Tribunals. It applies to all courts and tribunal judicial office holders in England and Wales, and is effective immediately.

A “blog” (derived from the term “web log”) is a personal journal published on the internet. “Blogging” describes the maintaining of, or adding content to, a blog. Blogs tend to be interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments. They may also contain links to other blogs and websites. For the purpose of this guidance blogging includes publishing material on micro-blogging sites such as Twitter.

Judicial office holders should be acutely aware of the need to conduct themselves, both in and out of court, in such a way as to maintain public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.

Blogging by members of the judiciary is not prohibited. However, officer holders who blog (or who post comments on other people’s blogs) must not identify themselves as members of the judiciary. They must also avoid expressing opinions which, were it to become known that they hold judicial office, could damage public confidence in their own impartiality or in the judiciary in general.

The above guidance also applies to blogs which purport to be anonymous. This is because it is impossible for somebody who blogs anonymously to guarantee that his or her identity cannot be discovered.

Judicial office holders who maintain blogs must adhere to this guidance and should remove any existing content which conflicts with it forthwith. Failure to do so could ultimately result in disciplinary action. It is also recommended that all judicial office holders familiarise themselves with the new IT and Information Security Guidance which will be available shortly.