YP Letters: Sad decline in tradition of local justice

Spencer Pitfield's resignation as a Sheffield magistrate has prompted a letter from another former JP about cuts.
Spencer Pitfield's resignation as a Sheffield magistrate has prompted a letter from another former JP about cuts.
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From: Paul Sherwood JP, Thirsk.

Spencer Pitfield’s recent 
article about the total demise 
of local justice made interesting reading, especially amongst serving and retired magistrates (The Yorkshire Post, October 19).

I retired, a couple of years 
ago, at 70, as all judicial office holders have to, from the Northallerton bench.

Like Mr Pitfield, I, too, was becoming more disillusioned 
at the way in which local justice had gone especially on rural benches.

The whole historic concept of ‘Magistrates Courts’ in England amd Wales was based on ‘local’ justice carried out by your ‘local’ peers. That has been the case for several hundreds of years – it worked well.

I was appointed in the early 1990s to the Northallerton bench, even then rural benches were being absorbed into bigger bench areas.

Thirty years ago, the North Yorkshire geographic area had about thirty courts sitting for one day a week.

When I was appointed, most of the smaller courthouses had gone and the magistrates assimilated into bigger groups.

We still sat at Stokesley, Bedale, Northallerton and Bedale, Richmond court still sat at Richmond and Leyburn. Then Richmond and Northallerton combined and North Yorkshire had four courts.

It is fairly impractical in a huge rural area for people to travel from remote areas with no public transport, incurring excessive travel costs and time wasting for solicitors, prosecutors, police, court staff and magistrates. On top of this, local justice went.

It has now become more centralised. Local justices have no discretion over sentencing, it’s all laid out in the national guidelines. You can no longer ‘hammer’ a local problem with punitive sentencing, the book says so! North Yorkshire magistrates are no longer a member of say, Harrogate bench, they are appointed to the county and can sit anywhere.

A magistrate who lives in Settle knows little of a problem confronting him/her in Scarborough court and likewise a Whitby magistrate knows nothing of a road layout in Ingleton – is that local justice dispensed by local justices?

On top of that is the pointless increase in costs involved with magistrates (unpaid of course) travelling up to a hundred miles return journey to sit with two other people in similar circumstances in some far away courthouse, when three local ones have gone off elsewhere on similar ridiculous journeys.

This, of course, is planned from an office in Leeds that covers North and West Yorkshire, no longer a ‘Justices Clerk’ based at the old rural courthouse. Most of my recently retired colleagues are glad to be out of it.

Cultural gulf with refugees

From: Dick Spreadbury, Liversedge.

EVER since the West’s “war on terror” created a refugee crisis, we have been inundated with emotive images of “unaccompanied” child refugees.

Childhood is really defined by life experience and not an age per se. Few people would have trouble understanding that a Victorian 10-year-old working in a textile mill in Bradford would be a universe apart from a modern X-Box playing European 10-year-old of today, both in terms of maturity and capability.

However, certain sections of the media and bleeding heart chattering classes seem to have a problem understanding that a 10-year-old Afghani, whose parents abandoned them to people traffickers, and who has the street wiseness and guts to survive a 4,500 mile overland journey to Europe, is somehow not the equivalent of an English 10-year-old.

Ignoring the huge cultural differences, how do they expect this “child” to assimilate into an English primary school without the need for massive state support to prevent them descending into a spiral of alienation, depression and exploitation?

Is it not far better to address the problem back in their own country?

Language on the move

From: Elisabeth Baker, Leeds.

WHY are people who are knocked down by motor vehicles now described in the press as having been “in collision” with the bus/lorry/van/car etc? The use of this expression suggests two moving objects meeting, rather than one large inanimate perpetrator and one smaller living victim. Even a car hitting a tree is now “a collision”, even though it is just a car hitting a tree.

Is this another Americanism creeping in? Or the latest language fad?

While I am on my soapbox, could somebody please explain to The Yorkshire Post’s journalists that Dame Sarah Storey is Dame Sarah and not Dame Storey? And that fanfare is not spelled fan-fair?

A close encounter

From: Andrew Mercer, Guiseley.

TO the cyclist tailgating behind a lorry on the A65 through Rawdon on Monday morning, count yourself lucky that the HGV driver did not apply his brakes.

Junk food generations

From: Barry Foster, High Stakesby, Whitby.

SO now we hear children are developing Type 2 Diabetes? Is there any wonder?

Parents are wandering about stuffing their faces – often in the most obscene manner – while dragging their kids behind them who are equally stuffing their faces. It really is getting serious when we hear this and are subjected to seeing it every time we go shopping.

I cannot imagine how councils are going to allow many more fast food outlets, cafes and junk food shops to appear.