A rare insight and celebration of the magistracy, Our Magistracy sets out its core role and values and identifies mistakes by politicians, administrators, bureaucrats and others. By a former chairman of the Magistrates Association of England and Wales.
In this thoroughly informed account of the magistracy the author deals with key issues touching on that institution. Focussing on what Lord Bingham, Lord Chief Justice, described as a ‘democratic jewel beyond price’, he explains its rationale, goals and over-riding values. Dealing with major developments, economics, management, day-to-day practicalities and changing times the author casts an experienced eye over summary justice, law and order and its fascinating history of local administration.
Describing the magistracy as a great national institution, independent, respected and a true people’s court, John Hosking nevertheless decries a halving of its size, closure of courthouses, remote services and increasing reliance on professional judges rather than community volunteers. Though much has changed for the better to increase competency, meet criticism and maintain integrity, the book explains how other developments have challenged the very status of the lay magistracy and made inroads into one of the most cherished principles of our democracy: public participation in the justice system.
‘A number of books have been written about the magistracy… but none as good as this one… It is beyond reasonable doubt that every serving magistrate should have a copy’– Brian P Block.
‘I have read just about everything relating to the English lay magistracy; your book is a worthy addition to that material, and came like a breath of fresh air. I believe it will probably become a definitive work’– Dr Alan Forbes JP, Former bench chairman.
‘I thought your book was excellent, and stands in marked contrast to the unfair and rather biased portrayal of the magistracy in books such as The Secret Barrister … … It appeared at just the time when we need wider understanding of the value we bring, and the real value of timely and effective local justice’– Lt Col John R. Stroud-Turp JP, West London bench.
‘A well-paced, readable and compelling narrative on the recent history of the local administration of summary justice and the fast-changing role, influence and functions of magistrates.’– Mike Guilfoyle, retired member of Napo and magistrate (from Probation Journal).
‘It… ill-behoves politicians and reformers to support actions which may be designed to improve the justice system as a whole, but which devalue the magistracy in the process. Likewise, the sustainability of the magistracy can only be assured if the popular demands of the present… are met without compromising the future of the whole institution.’
‘In addition to its unquestioned integrity and independence, the most persuasive reason for having a lay magistracy is that… it manifestly does a good job at a very low cost.’
John Hosking combined a lifetime in business with service as a justice of the peace. Chairman of the nationwide Magistrates’ Association from 1987 to 1990, he is life vice-president of the Kent branch (where he served on the Ashford bench). He has acted as a Deputy Lord Lieutenant and was awarded the CBE in 1990 for services to the magistracy.