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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2003
I was fortunate enough to receive this book as a Christmas present from my son - admittedly after a strong hint that I would like to have it. I was glad that I found time to read it before I first sat on the Bench in January 2003.

By describing his own thoughts and feelings as he applied, was interviewed and appointed, undertook his training and then gained his first two years' experience on the Bench in north London, Trevor Grove performs an excellent service. His lively accounts of each stage in his development, from initial application to completing his probation, very much accorded with my own journey over the last year, so they served to reinforce what I am learning. Here is someone who has recently lived through his own novitiate - and survived.

The Magistrate's Tale is exceptionally well written, as one might expect from a professional journalist, who worked for The Spectator, Evening Standard, The Observer and The Daily Telegraph, and was Editor of The Sunday Telegraph. This is his second book. His first, The Juryman's Tale, was published by Bloomsbury in 1998, after he had been inspired by serving as a juror at the Old Bailey in a 64-day trial that involved the kidnap of a Greek shipping magnate and a $3,000,000 ransom. So impressed was he with that experience of the criminal justice system that he responded positively to the suggestion of a JP friend that he should apply to become a magistrate.

His account of observing magistrates before he completed his application included one case that grabbed his attention - that of a man found to be drunk in charge of his car, although he had been in the back seat...
As it happened, one of the "structured observations" in my training - the trial of a 'Not Guilty' case - was very similar. The only differences were that the sleeping driver was found at the wheel and the engine was running. That case was particularly interesting because the standard of proof was not "beyond reasonable doubt" but "the balance of probabilities". The burden of proof therefore shifted to the Defence, which sought to employ the statutory defence that, at the material time, there was no likelihood of the defendant driving or attempting to drive whilst in excess of the legal limit.

The Aldershot Bench took some 20 minutes to decide that, on the balance of probabilities, it was more likely than not that the defendant would have driven whilst unfit. Even so, although he had his clean driving licence endorsed with 10 penalty points, he must have been happy to get away with a £300 fine and £300 costs, rather than the disqualification that Grove claimed to be mandatory.

Grove's feelings on being sworn in also struck a chord because, like me, he was particularly impressed by the last part of the oath: "I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this Realm without fear or favour, affection or ill-will."
...The Magistrate's Tale is a fascinating mixture of history, endorsement of the magistracy in the 2001 review by Lord Justice Auld (who provides the foreword to Grove's book), visits to courts throughout the country, and revealing interviews, such as that with Sue Baring, chair of the British Institute of Human Rights, who started her 21 years as JP on the Winchester Bench in 1965.

Happily for a novice like myself, The Magistrate's Tale ends on an optimistic note. After all, no one wants to be joining a failing institution in its final throes...
I therefore recommend The Magistrate's Tale as a worthwhile addition to the bookshelves of candidate, new and even experienced JPs who want a fresh insight into the magistracy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
An enjoyable and informative read for either prospective magistrates or general reading. The book is easy to read
and has humour entwined with factual description of court
procedures. The author writes from personal experience
taking a wry and incisive perspective. The challenges to impartiality, prejudice and assumptions of guilt are mind provoking and the picture of the national judicial system informative.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 August 2010
If you have any interest in the Magistracy then you should read this book. Trevor Grove gives an accurate and interesting account of his introduction to the criminal system and what he finds along the way. Grove delivers this in an appealing and readable manner. The pace of the book is steady, telling anecdotes and personal experiences without getting bogged down in legal jargon.

My only complaint with this book is that it rather skips over the early stages about the application process and this is only covered by a few short pages. However, perhaps this is kept to a minimum for obvious reasons.

A must read for anyone considering this path.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2012
I enjoyed this book, but not as much as Grove's earlier Juryman's Tale, which chimed almost exactly with my own experiences as a jury member.
Grove has a phenomenal memory and a wonderful eye for detail and can summon (excuse the pun) up the atmosphere of a court room with it intrinsic theatrical quality and its array of extraordinary characters in a brilliant way. His analysis of the British legal system and thorough research robustly underpin both this and the earlier book and raise them both above the level of anecdote.
However, his enthusiasm seems to have dulled slightly in The Magistrate's Tale and the humdrum nature of many cases; drunk driving, unpaid fines and so on do not make for excitement. This, and the hopelessness of the lives of many those in the dock - those at the bottom of the social pile, repeat offenders, the poor, the feckless and the plain dumb make for a slightly depressing aftertaste. Nevertheless this book is a worthwhile read, if only to encourage a lobby for more imaginative sentencing for those in society with lives and attitudes which are difficult, disorganised, disengaged and downright disaffected. It is clear that Trevor Grove feels their various plights very keenly and he writes with great clarity and, in the main, sympathy. A mild critisism - a little less name-dropping on his part would have been welcome.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 October 2009
This book was an amusingly written account of what it's really like to be a JP - warts and all. The many tales of courtroom cases illustrated the vast range of crimes - some petty, some farcical, some sad - that the JP confronts. It also praised (quite rightly) the impartial and common sense approach to the dispensation of the law adopted by this unpaid and unsung body of upright citizens. In this respect the UK system is unique and this book comprehensively provides excellent advocacy for the profession.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2013
'A Magistrate's Tale' is an interesting account of recruitment and service to the lay bench. Trevor Grove, J.P., writes well and provides a vivid account of what it is like to be selected as a Magistrate and what it is like to serve. Grove has a tendency to accept PC tropes without question (which probably explains how he was able to become a Magistrate in the first place), and he adopts the flat pack liberal position on drugs, but he is right that among the major problems of our criminal justice system are the lack of imaginative sentencing available at all levels and an unhealthy preoccupation with incarceration.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2012
I purchased this book to help get an insight into the Magistracy. It gives a no-nonsense, honest view from the writer from being sworn in, through his training and mentoring and subsequent experiences.
If anyone is thinking of applying to join the magistracy this book gives an invaluable insight into this unique judiciary.
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on 11 May 2015
An excellent insight to the life of a magistrate.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 March 2013
This book should be called " The Bible " of the Magistrates. It is excellent, pulling no punches & direct to the point. I love the honesty and straightforward way it is written, from someone who has been there and worn the t-shirt.
Brilliant.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2011
The book was received quickly, as promised, and is both a good and a useful read for any budding or new Magistrate.
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