[OK for magistrates to
use their local knowledge] D drove with excess alcohol, at high speed around a multi-storey car
park shortly after .Was the car park "a public place" within the meaning of
the Act. The magistrates (one of whom lived near the car park, and
another of whom used it regularly) used their own knowledge that the
barriers were raised at night so that motorists used it freely, and
Held: There is no doubt that magistrates have a right and a duty
to use their local knowledge where appropriate, though it is always wise
for them to make their intention known so that the parties can comment.
absence of bias required of magistrates] D recognised one of the magistrates as a prison visitor and this
magistrate retired and was replaced by another; however, the bench now
knew that D must have some kind of criminal record.
Held: The question was whether there was any real danger of bias
in the justices having learned something they should not have. Lay
justices, like judges, were trained to put irrelevant matters out of
mind, and in the instant case that was sufficient.
[If magistrates use
their local knowledge must say so in open court] D allowed unsafe working practices. In their "case stated"
the justices said they had used their personal local knowledge.
Held: There is no objection to justices' relying on issues of
local notoriety, but they should always make this intention known to the
parties and allow them a chance to comment on it before the decision is
made. In this case, the justices had not done this.
[OK for magistrates to
use their local knowledge] D picked up a prostitute in his car. Were his actions "likely to
cause nuisance to other persons in the neighbourhood". The
magistrates took account of their own knowledge of the area as a heavily
populated residential area in which many drivers looked for prostitutes,
Held: This was the sort of case that was particularly appropriate
for trial by magistrates with local knowledge.
Justice absence of bias required of magistrates] D supplied short measure of groceries to various schools.The chairman of the bench was a County alderman who sat on the
Held: Widgery CJ said that although a formal connection between
justice and prosecutor need not always disqualify the justice from
sitting, justices should always disqualify themselves (or at least
invite the parties to object) where they had an active interest in an
organisation that was the victim of the alleged offence.
Not guilty certiorari (now a quashing order) granted
[Natural Justice absence of bias required of
Barnsley Co-Op applied for and was granted an off-licence, of the seven
justices who had dealt with the application, six were members of the
Co-Op Society and the seventh had a wife who was.
Held: Statutory provisions preserved the validity of the licence:
the procedure had been irregular, but there was no real likelihood of
bias because the extent of the justices' financial interest was so
absence of bias required of magistrates] D exceeded the speed limit. D and a police officer contradicted one
another.Finding D guilty,
the chairman said, "My principle in such cases has always been to
believe the evidence of the police officer."
Held: This remark would cause any reasonable person to suspect
that the chairman of magistrates was biased and that D had not had a
[Clerk to take no part in verdict] D accused
ofdeception and handling.
retired to consider their verdict, the clerk had (as usual) retired with
them without being invited to do so in open court; since there was no
point of law arising, this created a suspicion that he was taking part
in deciding the verdict.
costs not awarded when mistake made] Two women jailed in their absence for non-payment of poll tax and
council tax. The magistrates took no steps to discover the reasons for
non-payment or their absence from the hearing, nor did they issue bench
warrants to bring the, before the court.
Held: Magistrates ordered personally to pay the costs of the
appeal, estimated at £3000 each.
[Magistrates immunity, costs not awarded when mistake
made] D on trial for speeding, trial was interrupted, and
(apparently losing his place) the chairman then announced they found the
case proved, without giving D a chance to present evidence in his own
defence. Attempted to withdraw his finding, but the defence declined to
continue with the trial. Held: Lord Parker CJ, refused to make an order for
It is the practice not to grant costs against magistrates merely
because they have made a mistake in law, but only if they have acted
improperly; that is to say, perversely or with some disregard for the
elementary principles which every court ought to obey, and even then
only if it was a flagrant instance.
absence of bias required of magistrates] Ds conduct was disorderly after an anti-apartheid demonstration. For
15 minutes in court he denounced of the evils of apartheid; the
magistrate said he intended to "improve the shining hour" with
some other work, and spent the next ten minutes signing warrants while D
continued with his evidence.
Held: There is a fundamental judicial duty for the court to give
the case in hand its undivided attention.
immunity, costs not awarded when mistake made]
D failed to pay poll-tax, magistrates committed him to prison. There was
some doubt as to whether he had received the (wrongly-addressed) letter
requiring him to attend court.
Held: Their unexplained failure to make the necessary enquiries
whether the letter had been received called for strong disapproval.
Accordingly, there was no reason why the magistrates should not be
required to pay the costs.
immunity, costs not awarded when mistake made] D subject
to a High Court maintenance order, committed to prison for non-payment.
The order had not been registered with the court so they had no such
power.D claimed £1½m
damages for wrongful imprisonment.
Held: The magistrates had acted in execution of their office even
though in excess of their jurisdiction, so that damages were limited to
absence of bias required of magistrates] During D's trial the chairman of the magistrates appeared to be asleep.
D's solicitor suggested that she might be ill and should withdraw from
the case, but she declined to do so.
Held: They accepted that the chairman had not in fact been
asleep, but said this had been a genuine application by a respected and
responsible solicitor, and should have been taken more seriously.
- lack of public confidence] D failed to provide a specimen of breath.During her trial, while she gave evidence, one of the magistrates
was reading other material and not paying attention to what she said.
Held: It is important that justices (and indeed, any member of
the bench) give and seem to give full attention to the proceedings
although justices need not look at a witness constantly, they should not
appear to be engaged for any considerable time in some other activity
inconsistent with hearing the evidence.
It is important for judges to
keep in touch with public attitudes, so as to maintain public confidence
in the (criminal) justice system.