Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bloggers of the world unite!

Tempting though it is to expand into other subjects, especially political controversies of all kinds, I have so far managed to avoid any inclination to stray outside the field of town and country planning in this blog, and I intend (solely for reasons of relevance) to stick to that resolution. There is more than enough going on in the world of town planning to keep me occupied without getting distracted by other subjects.

One of the hallmarks of this blog, ever since it was originally started back in 2005 as part of the RTPI’s ‘Planning Matters’ website, has been a robust independence of view and from time to time some trenchant comments, directed particularly at the nonsensical utterances and downright silly decisions of politicians at all levels. This is not blind prejudice on my part, but a healthy disrespect, born of long experience. The position of most politicians, up to and including cabinet ministers (particularly with regard to town and country planning) is one of profound ignorance, all too often compounded by breathtaking arrogance. I do not exempt the members of any political party, whatever its colour, from that damning criticism – this blog has no party political bias. I am, of course, aware of the desirability of keeping any excoriating comments within reasonable bounds, but I would nevertheless defend to the utmost the principle of independence of thought and of expression in all media.

My reason for mentioning this is that a fellow blogger, whose blog I greatly admire and respect, has recently come under threat from ‘the powers that be’ (together with other similar blogs). The blogger I have in mind writes “The Magistrate’s Blog” (alternatively known as “The Law West of Ealing Broadway”) under the nom de plume of “Bystander” - http://magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk . Since 2005, he has provided a fascinating insight into the work of a lay magistrate, with relevant comments on many of the issues facing the criminal justice system in recent years. It has greatly increased my respect for the lay magistracy and for the vital work that they perform. It has, on the other hand, also served to shine a very unflattering light on the nonsenses that many of those involved in the criminal justice system have had to put up with from politicians of all political persuasions, in the form of legislation, administrative disruption and generally being messed about by bureaucrats in the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunals Service. “Bystander” has not hesitated to comment adversely on these nonsenses, and this, I suspect may be the reason behind the edict recently issued by none other than the Senior Presiding Judge (of which the following is an extract):

Judicial office holders should be acutely aware of the need to conduct themselves, both in and out of court, in such a way as to maintain public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.........Blogging by members of the judiciary is not prohibited. However, office holders who blog (or who post comments on other people’s blogs) must not identify themselves as members of the judiciary. They must also avoid expressing opinions which, were it to become known that they hold judicial office, could damage public confidence in their own impartiality or in the judiciary in general...........Judicial office holders who maintain blogs must adhere to this guidance and should remove any existing content which conflicts with it forthwith. Failure to do so could ultimately result in disciplinary action."

I do not hold any judicial office, nor am I ever likely to do so, but I am happy to lend my support in defence of freedom of speech within the ‘blogosphere’. I very much hope that “Bystander” and other judicial bloggers will take absolutely no notice of this pompous nonsense from the Senior Presiding Judge. All he has achieved by this edict is to demonstrate just how out of touch he is with the rest of the world. Nothing that “Bystander” and other judicial bloggers have written could seriously be thought to damage public confidence in their impartiality or in the judiciary in general; quite the opposite - “Bystander” has done great good service to the magistracy by his blogging, and long may he continue to do so. I hope readers of this blog will visit “the Magistrate’s Blog” if they have not already done so, and will express their support for its continued publication on the internet in whatever way they can.

Fiat iustitia, et ruat coelum!



  1. i have the privilege of being a friends of one and professionally acquainted with another magistrate and have in both contexts enjoyed as much surprise at their life as a magistrate as i have their company over a glass of wine and planning problems respectively. Both give tirelessly and selflessly of themselves for public better, both are 'young' and in touch and in their own spheres successful.

    i am with immediate effect a new reader the aforementioned blog and long may free speech prevail.

  2. Well said Martin, absolutely agree with all you say here!