Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The koala tea of mercy

Is this a kangaroo court case, my possums?

Top judge facing probe over comments about immigrants abusing benefits system

A judge who described Britain's immigration system as 'completely lax' is to face an official investigation, it was revealed today.
Judge Ian Trigger complained that 'hundreds and hundreds of thousands' of illegal immigrants were abusing the benefits system.

It is possible that it is somehow wrong for judges to pass comment during trials on larger political issues. Does anyone out there know of a convention or law against such outbursts?

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, has referred the outburst to the Office of Judicial Complaints, to rule on whether it was too political.

Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice has referred Lord Trigger to the Office for Judicial Complaints for saying drugs defendant Lucien McClearley, from Jamaican, had abused the welfare state like 'hundreds of thousands of others'

Well, I’m sure if this was the case, our elected leaders in Parliament would have answered the issue thoroughly, right?

A spokesman for the Office for Judicial Complaints said: 'The Lord Chief Justice has decided to refer His Honour Judge Trigger to the Office for Judicial Complaints, following comments the judge made in open court in the sentencing of Lucien McClealey at Liverpool Crown Court on July 28 2009.

'The referral is not related to the judge's comments on the specific case or the sentence passed.

'The OJC has been asked to focus on the propriety of the judge's statements and assertions, and whether they went beyond the facts of the case and extended overtly into the political arena.'

Well that clarifies that, though it is possible to accuse someone of a supposed impropriety when none has occurred. So is it only in trials that judges shouldn’t discuss meta-political issues?

This judge seems to have gotten away with criticizing the health and safety laws and a fair chunk of the Probation service’s practice.

Of course, he seems to be rather keen to keep a sex offender out of jail and put him to work in ‘the community’ instead, so perhaps trial comments about the system are only appropriate if the judge means to keep ‘offenders’ on the streets?

I can see the justice in that. Can’t you?

Judge Trigger made his comments as he sentenced a Jamaican man, Lucien McClearley, for two years for drugs offences at Liverpool Crown Court last week.

The 31-year-old was arrested by police who found bags of cannabis in his car in Liverpool on February 15 and cannabis worth £7,200 at his home.

Judge Trigger said: 'Your case illustrates all too clearly the completely lax immigration policy that exists ... in this country.

One might wonder here whether Judge Trigger’s comments are untrue, or merely improper in the context of a trial. Help out there, please, from our constitutional lawyers?

'People like you, and there are literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people like you, come to these shores from foreign countries to avail themselves of the generous welfare benefits that exist here.

'In the past 10 years the national debt of this country has risen to extraordinary heights, largely because central government has wasted billions and billions of pounds. Much of that has been wasted on welfare payments.

'For every £1 that the decent citizen, who is hard-working, pays in taxes in this country, nearly 10% goes on servicing that national debt. That is twice the amount it was in 1997 when this government came to power.'

Now that is overtly political, and indeed appears to be party-political to boot, and may as such be rather dodgy. But still and all, if there’s a problem in a system that bears on the case, should a judge not comment on it?

The final decision on whether the judge stepped out of line will be made jointly by Lord Judge and the Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw.

If the complaint is upheld, sanctions available range from guidance to reprimand or even dismissal.

I mean, it’s not like this man will have the key thrown away on him, or be deposited on a raft with an easterly wind behind him, is it? The law system can show commendable leniency if judges are too harsh, the swine, to some of our country’s most vulnerable sex offenders, and so here we come to see the mercy inherent in the system.

And elsewhere this judge, all un-criticised, has a go at prisons policy for not meeting prisoners’ needs as well as it should; the poor dears.

So perhaps Judge Igor Judge is right to suggest an investigation of Judge Trigger, if only because of the context.

(Say, does anyone else out there want to check that the date isn’t very, very early April?)

And at least ol’ Trigger didn’t say there was just too much criminal law to go around and show how dealing with it could solve the credit crisis, which is an economic issue.

The XX Justice, Lord X, said repeated calls for less legislation, and especially fewer crime laws, had been ignored by ministers.

Lord X complained about "major constitutional changes" being made without senior judges being consulted, and warned plans for cleaning up parliament could lead to conflict between judges and the House of Commons.

"My request is one which has been frequently addressed, but so far without success. Can we possibly have less legislation, particularly in the field of criminal justice?

"My Lord Mayor, in a rough and ready calculation, it seems to me that if every line of recent criminal justice legislation had been guaranteed by a payment to the Bank of England of £10,000 a line, the credit crisis would have been funded."

That would be silly, right?


Picture from here.

PS. All things bright and beautiful, for gossake?


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