By Trevor Grove.
Any reference to lay magistrates provokes a range of anecdotes, complaints and dubious assumptions. Trevor Grove’s intention is to set the record straight by a lively account of his first two years as a London magistrate (including powerful descriptions of visits to Feltham young offenders institution and Pentonville prison) by recording activities and attitudes in several courts. He also interviews senior judges and politicians and sits in waiting rooms with defendants.
He is perceptive, witty, laconic and determined “to tell it like it is”. The book contains a running theme of pen portraits of defendants and we are challenged to address the difficulties of passing judgement on our fellow citizens – democratic justice is an important issue.
Various contexts are discussed: the composition of benches in their communities, the relevance of the lay magistracy, human rights legislation and the impact of social change on the generations.
This book is entertaining and humane, offering a useful commentary on recent changes and current thinking. I recommend it to social workers and probation officers (for an updating of perceptions), students, magistrates and anyone interested in becoming one.
Eric Sainsbury is a magistrate and emeritus professor of social administration, University of Sheffield.