In yesterday’s press, there was the story of an unnamed Magistrate, who was reprimanded, and ordered to take remedial training, because he berated a foreign defendant whom he accused of “coming to our shores and abusing our hospitality”. This, according to the Office for Judicial Complaints (another Quango overdue for the axe?), “fell short of the qualities of social awareness and sound judgement expected of the judiciary”.
We read that “his long service, apology and contrition were taken into account”. In other words, his job became conditional on a ritual humiliation worthy of Chairman Mao’s Red Guards.
Personally, I think that the unnamed Magistrate showed a great deal of social awareness and sound judgement. No details were given in the report of what the defendant in question had done, but we are all aware of immigrants (legal and illegal) who come to our shores to take advantage of our National Health Service, our generous, and easily accessible, easily abused welfare system, and others who commit serious crimes against British citizens. Frequently they remain in Britain because the lunacy of the European Convention on Human Rights prevents (or is held to prevent) their deportation.
The magistrate showed sound judgement in understanding this familiar problem, and he showed social awareness because he clearly recognised and shared the concerns of his fellow citizens. He also showed great courage in the face of the prevailing climate of political correctness.
We have created a society in which a Magistrate is not allowed to make a statement which is self-evidently true, and which would be endorsed by most of the population. The concept of free speech is supposed to protect the right to say things which may be unfashionable or unpopular. But we are now denying Magistrates the right to say things which are true, and which reflect widely held public opinion.
Days earlier, we read of Mr. Hollis, a retired financial adviser from Bristol, who chose to participate in a local council’s consultation on a proposed Travellers’ site (are we allowed to say “gypsies” any more, by the way?). The Council rejected his letter because it was “discriminatory and insulting”. And what had he said? He said that Travellers “flout planning laws and moral standards”. Asked to justify his comments, he added that from his own knowledge Travellers had pressured local residents into having their drives resurfaced, and intimidated them into paying over the odds.
We know that Travellers do indeed flout planning laws. If you or I put up a semi-permanent caravan in a field without planning permission, and attempt to link it to public utilities, we shall be moved on in short order. But Travellers manage to get away with it for long periods, or permanently, and local authorities seem powerless to do anything about it (I believe the coalition government has declared its intention of changing the law to prevent these abuses – and about time too). It is also well-established that crime tends to increase around new Travellers’ camps. Ask any policeman. Frequently the police themselves are reluctant to react. Certainly it would be a brave officer who went alone to a Travellers camp to enquire, say, about a stolen vehicle.
These are facts that are well-known and frequently attested. And we haven’t even mentioned the effect on adjacent property values. Yet here is a local authority telling a resident that he cannot say these things, even if they’re true. What on earth is the point of a consultation if those consulted cannot raise genuine and valid concerns?
As a politician, I shall continue to challenge the strictures of political correctness. And I believe that Magistrates, and members of the public, should insist on the same right.