Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Police and Crime Commissioner farce continues - UPDATED

November's police and crime commissioner elections are rapidly turning into a farce with anybody who has any interest in the post seemingly being barred from standing.

First of all it was those with a criminal conviction for which the punishment might have been a jail term (even if no jail was given). That might seem fair enough if it were an offence committed within the last few years. But at least two high profile candidates appear to have been ruled out on the basis of events from their childhood.

One of these was Falklands hero Simon Weston, who expressed an interest in standing as an independent in South Wales. It was fairly well known that Mr Weston had been in a bit of trouble as a youth and was convicted of offences surrounding a stolen car. He did no jail time, but that even more than thirty years ago appears to bar him from standing now. And Labour's candidate in Avon and Somerset - who received a £5 fine in pre-decimal days as a teenager - has also had to withdraw.

Now, according to the Guardian, a judge has declared that people who are serving magistrates cannot stand. As this is not covered by the law, it will be interesting to see if anyone tries to test it. But the magistracy will lose several experienced people as they have been told to resign as soon as they express any interest in standing.

And it gets worse.

Magistrates will also, it appears be barred from serving on the policing and crime panels which oversee the work of the police and crime commissioners. This despite the fact that they replace the current system of police authorities on which magistrates play a prominent role.

And finally, just in case magistrates didn't feel that their rights were not being curtailed enough, they are to be banned from meeting with police commissioner candidates.

UPDATE - It seems that the judiciary are quite good at listening to common sense arguments and admitting when they get things wrong. Today LJ Goldring has reversed his ruling that sitting magistrates may not stand for election as police and crime commissioners. Instead, he suggests that they should not hear cases between now and the election and should resign if elected. However, he still says that magistrates should not go out campaigning (presumably this edict does not apply to the candidates themselves) and should not sit on the police and crime panels overseeing the work of the commissioners.


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