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Magistrate blames government treatment

PUBLISHED: 14:04 29 June 2002 | UPDATED: 12:12 03 March 2010

A RETIRING senior magistrate from Needham Market has launched a scathing attack on the Government for treating them like 'untrustworthy children.'

David Biddle has stepped down after serving 30 years as a magistrate in Suffolk.

A RETIRING senior magistrate from Needham Market has launched a scathing attack on the Government for treating them like 'untrustworthy children.'

David Biddle has stepped down after serving 30 years as a magistrate in Suffolk.

A passionate believer in justice handed out by the laymen and women of the magistrates bench, Mr Biddle used the opportunity to attack the Government for increasing bureaucracy 'set out to challenge our abilities'.

Speaking after his final day at St Edmundsbury Magistrates' Court, said the introduction of internal assessments for magistrates and 'personal development logs' all contributed to a sense they were being undermined by the Government.

"I feel it is a lack of trust and I find it difficult to go along with," he said.

"It is my view, but I know it is shared by others. The system worked perfectly well before these disciplines were introduced - we are grown up, adult people.

"A 'personal development log' is something you would give to an office junior not a senior magistrate."

Mr Biddle said magistrates put in "a hell of a lot of work" only to be "treated in a slightly off way" by the Government introducing more and more bureaucracy and checks on them.

He said one of the beauties of having lay magistrates was that they "retain a sense of individuality" otherwise you "might as well get a computer to do the job".

Mr Biddle added: "If I had seen the way the Lord Chancellor's department was going I would have had strong misgivings about volunteering to be a magistrate."

A spokesman for the Lord Chancellor's department said the system of assessments for magistrates was brought in by the Judicial Studies Board, a publicly funded body responsible for training within the judiciary.

He added: "The assessments and training are national and are there to assist magistrates."

Chris Bowler, is director of legal services for Suffolk Magistrates Courts Committee which oversees the running of the county's courts and implements the training. He said: "There has been a great burden of expectation and time requirement placed in magistrates but if the result is a more professional approach to the administration of lay justice that is a good thing."

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