The law ain't broken, says Leeds's top judge as he retires at age of 70

Leeds's top judge said more money is needed in the judicial system as he retired from office after more than a decade but insisted: 'The law ain't broken.'

Retired judge HHJ Peter Collier, pictured in his former chambers at Leeds Crown Court..15th March 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme
Retired judge HHJ Peter Collier, pictured in his former chambers at Leeds Crown Court..15th March 2016 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

The Recorder of Leeds, Peter Collier QC, the highly-respected head of the area’s judiciary, address fellow judges, lawyers and court staff as he left the role on his 70th birthday.

Judge Collier has been at the helm of Leeds Combined Courts Centre - one of the largest in the country - since September 2007.

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Describing the challenges faced over the years, he said: “I don’t think I had any idea of the size of the job then, let alone what it has become.

“The work load has changed. In the last quarter of last year we had twice as many serious sex cases as in the same quarter of 2007.

“Then we have terrorism and modern day slavery cases - all hugely serious stuff.”

“Leeds Crown Court, in terms of case receipts in 2017, was the third busiest in the coutnry.

“We deal that work load with fewer sitting days and judges than other similarly-sized courts.

“We are able to do it because of that particular combination of commitment and determination to get the job done and to work together to do it which is shared by all those sitting around me today.”

Judge Collier listed the court’s efforts to tackle the city’s spiraling house-burglary rates as a highlight during his time in charge.

He said: “The police conducted some operations aimed at organised crime groups. The Crown Prosecution Service appointed a lawyer to deal with all the case.

“We got community impact statements. We locked them up. The rate has been coming down steadily.”

Judge Collier said there are “challenges ahead” both locally and nationally which will make the administration of criminal justice a different experience in the next five years.

He said: “There is a lot said at the moment about the justice system.

“Of course it is under-funded, as are all of our public services.More money is needed.

“There is a mantra that even has its own hashtag - ‘the law is broken’.

“The law ain’t broken.

“One light fitting falling down in Sheffield and a toilet that was not repaired for two days in Leeds...are not evidence of a broken justice system.

“The rule of law, the right to know what charge you face, to be properly advised and represented by competent advocates, to have a fair trial conducted before a random selection of your peers, overseen by an a fair and impartial judge and, if convicted, to receive an appropriate sentence in accordance with national definitive guidelines has never been under threat in Leeds in the last 11 years.

“I am confident it will not be in the forseeable future.

He added: “I leave the criminal justice system, in Leeds at least, in good health and in good hands.

“In the future, if the siren voices on Twitter say otherwise I might even join in.”