Letters: Save our justice system from falling into ruin

The following letters appear in the 10 September edition of The Independent

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The unprecedented mass resignation of magistrates (“The judicial revolt: mass resignations over punitive court fees”, 9 September) is yet another indication of how little this government understands the workings of our justice system.

So far the arguments from both criminal and civil legal professionals about the devastating impact of the Government’s reforms on access to justice have fallen on deaf ears, but this cannot go on. It is time for this government to wake up to the reality of its reforms and take action to prevent our justice system from falling into ruin and failing those it was set up to protect.

Bill Waddington
Chair, Criminal Law Solicitors Association
Driffield, East Yorkshire


It’s unsurprising though regrettable that many magistrates are resigning over the imposition of court charges by a previous Justice Secretary. But there’s a possible alternative form of protest: in cases where a fine appears an appropriate penalty, use a conditional discharge (an under-rated and under-used disposal) instead, in conjunction with the unavoidable court charge, until Michael Gove reverses his predecessor’s lamentable idea.

It is also no surprise that many are unhappy about the reduction in the number of magistrates’ courts in the interests of “economy”. It is, for instance, proposed in Suffolk that there should be a single court in Ipswich, that those in Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds should be suppressed, and  defendants, witnesses, lawyers and probation staff required to make, respectively, 45- and 25-mile trips to attend; at whose expense? 

Suffolk would be only one of several counties reduced to a single magistrates’ court. It’s hard to avoid the impression of an attack on the principles of local justice, locally administered; another case of knowing “the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

Conrad Natzio
Woodbridge, Suffolk


Your exclusive report on the unrest caused by the underhand introduction of the criminal courts charges is very welcome. It is perfectly understandable that so many magistrates have resigned over the matter, but this plays nicely into the hands of the Ministry of Justice, which has another item on its agenda apart from screwing the poor. 

Magistrates are being seen as an expensive luxury that should be replaced by paid district judges sitting in a Travelodge; the court buildings can then be sold off for development. After 28 years sitting on my local bench I intend to remain and fight our corner, and I urge all my colleagues to do the same.

Anthony Young
Chidham, West Sussex


The next challenge for the Queen

Before celebrations end for Her Majesty as our longest reigning monarch, I would point out that there is one milestone left for her to pass. It is the “reign” of James III, normally known as the Old Pretender.

His “reign” dates from 1701, the death of his father, the former James II, to his own death in 1766. At 64 years and three months, this exceeds that of our Queen – at present.

It may be argued that James spent all his time pretending. In fact he set foot in Scotland in 1715-16, although he was not crowned. He was proclaimed James VIII of Scotland in 1745 in his absence during the rebellion led by his son, Bonnie Prince Charlie.

I am sure Her Majesty would not want to be bested by a Stuart. Long live the Queen!

Henry Spyvee


Our monarchy may have served us well in the past, but that is where it belongs. In representing and championing unearned wealth and privilege, it symbolises everything that needs to change in our “inheritocracy”.

A large and growing number of subjects aspire to become citizens, with both houses of Parliament directly elected, along with the one who presides. We would like a written constitution, incorporating a comprehensive bill of rights. Is that really too much to ask in the 21st century?

But we will probably be forced to continue under the rule of an unaccountable establishment, ever more bloated in every sense, as we flag-wave happily back to Victorian levels of poverty, lost opportunity and inequality.

If we can have referendums on Scottish independence and EU membership, then why not one on ending the monarchy? Or are those who benefit from it afraid even to allow public debate, even if they are so sure they would win?

Ian East
Islip, Oxfordshire


Right-to-die law would be abused

Safeguards put in place for the Assisted Dying bill will not prevent unintended consequences.

As a junior hospital doctor in 1976, talking a woman through her consent form prior to termination of pregnancy, she told me I was the first person who had told her it was her decision – everyone else had told her she couldn’t possibly go through with the pregnancy and should have a termination.

In a country where hospices are still dependent on charity, rather than being mainstream NHS provision, how long will it be before frightened cancer sufferers are told by their family and friends that they don’t have to worry as they can put an end to it all, rather than know that they can get the help of the local palliative care team in controlling their symptoms and have a good end without being put down.

Elderly patients who only see terrible headlines about poor nursing home care (never about those giving excellent care) will be encouraged by nearest and dearest to choose to die.

Be careful what you wish for.

Dr Audrey Boucher
Oakley, Hampshire


Whatever anyone of faith may believe, and however well-intentioned they may be, no one has the right to force someone to stay alive against their will. I hope the Assisted Dying Bill is passed.

Prue Bray
Wokingham, Berkshire


Paula Radcliffe is innocent

I have known Paula Radcliffe since she was 12 or 13 years old. Her moral compass has always been set to true north and never wavered. She is opposed to performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) with every fibre of her being.

She has vehemently and publicly opposed the use of PEDs for many years, most famously in the “EPO Cheats Out” protest at the Edmonton World Championships in 2001, and has been at the forefront of the fight against drugs since that time.

So determined was she to protect herself against accusations of cheating that she asked the World Anti-Doping Agency to test her more often and to store those samples to be tested again when better tests were developed. What intelligent person would do that if she had any concerns that there might be a problem?

In today’s climate, any outstanding performance is doubted. Had Jesse Owens competed today, he would have come under suspicion. Paula’s prodigious performances are a product of her physiology, honed by years of hard training and a determination driven by an iron will which has sometimes led her to the brink of self-destruction.

She has now answered the accusations. I believe in her total innocence.

Dennis Johnson
Athletics Coach


A Syrian boy is worth how many Africans?

This year alone, 2,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, coming largely from Libya, Somalia and Eritrea.

Last year 3500 more died. We have seen many pictures of bodies on the beaches of Lampedusa.

This year we have seen increased numbers coming from Syria, but with lower death tolls, in the tens of people, thanks to the shorter sea crossing from Turkey to Greece.

While the death of a child in any circumstances is deeply sad, I wonder why the shocking photograph of a drowned three-year-old boy shakes the media and the people of Europe into outrage but thousands of black Africans do not?

M Grivelle


A state religion for Muslim immigrants

If we acted on Dr Hargey’s suggestion (letter, 8 September) of demanding of Muslim arrivals that they accept formally that their religion conforms to values defined by the state, then we shall have an Established Mosque to set beside the Established Church.

This makes sense only if the state itself is considered profoundly sacred and the voice of the people the voice of God.

Martin Hughes
Wokingham, Berkshire


Eat these alien invaders

Why can’t the celebrity chefs introduce new dishes that incorporate Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam, so that the work of the foragers (“Foragers accused of destroying habitat”, 9 September) is of benefit to us all?

Ted Frith
Selsdon, Surrey