NOTES FROM A BELEAGUERED BENCH: THE IRON FIST AND NO VELVET GLOVER

There is a section on this blog which has links to posts and articles on procedure.  Usually I am content to post the link and lead to it readers to look at it themselves.  The article by Peter Glover in the Law Society Gazette today, however, warrants a post on on its own.  My aim is to get everyone to read the original article. This summary is no substitute.

THE RETIRING DISTRICT JUDGE

Peter Glover is a District Judge who retired law July.  His article is about judicial morale.  He notes the decline of the position of post of Lord Chancellor and inability of the new breed of Lord Chancellors to guarantee independence and adequate resourcing of the courts.  However the following paragraph contains the best summary of recent changes that I have seen.

“It was, of course, inevitable that the culture of austerity would impact adversely on the judiciary and the court system. Here was a sizeable cohort of highly paid lawyers operating through a widely spread, expensive and crumbling infrastructure and supported by substantial numbers of staff. The concept of local justice was seen as an expensive luxury which could not be sustained in adverse financial conditions. Centralisation and computerisation were the new essentials. Escalating court fees and the (all but) abolition of legal aid in family cases would deter citizens from using the courts. The reduced throughput of cases would, in turn, justify closures and the reduction of the workforce at all levels. The poverty of statistical information available to the MoJ could be used to advantage in such circumstances, as could highly optimistic assumptions about the availability and affordability of public transport. The High Court, as the jewel in the crown of the English legal system, and a substantial source of invisible earnings for the economy to boot, was off-limits, so the axe was wielded against county and magistrates’ courts, their staff and their judges.”

JUDICIAL MORALE

The article highlights some disturbing facts.

42% of judges in post would quit if they could.

37% of court (as opposed to tribunal) judges intend to quite in the next five years.

UNDER-INVESTMENT: JUDICIAL ILLNESS: PASTORAL CARE

The article also points to under-investment in the courts. Problems with stress and health for judges and the absence of any effective pastoral care for judges.

AND THE OUTLOOK IS BLEAK…

The dismantling of the County Court system and replacing it with a hugely “ambitious and untried” online system.

I haven’t dealt with all the aspects of the article. Not least the disconnect between higher court judges and those doing the day to day work in the lower courts.  The article says it all far better than I could. It is by far the most trenchant, well written and chastening thing written on recent reforms. Peter Glover is a retired judge. He has no axe to grind. He tells it as it is.