Author Archives: John Howson

Opinion: Lib Dems believe in local policing; should they also support a return to local courts?

Birmingham Magistrates' Courts / Victoria Law CourtsOver the past two decades summary justice has been transformed in England and Wales. Part of the change has been a loss of local visibility for the justice system. The police and Crown Prosecution Service has acquired new authority to sentence those admitting to crimes through use of Conditional Cautions and the expansion of fixed penalty and exclusion notices. In this they have been aided by new powers gained by local authorities.

On the other hand, local magistrates’ courts have disappeared from many towns and the suburbs of …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 4 Comments

John Howson’s review of education policy

As we approach the end of the first year of coalition government it is worth assessing the balance sheet in respect of education. Can we as Liberal Democrats be pleased or dismayed at what has happened in education?

The two obvious big events provide contrasting pictures. On the one hand there has been the tuition fees debacle, and on the other, the Pupil Premium success. But, there has been much more to consider; new forms of academies; additional schools; changes to the ways schools are funded; abolition of EMAs; and of Quangos such as the GTCE and TDA; provision for deprived …

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Youth Justice: the magistrate’s view

just over 100 years ago a Liberal government decided that young people should no longer be routinely tried in the same courts as adults. Thus was born the juvenile, now youth, court system in England and Wales. During the last hundred years much has changed in penal policy, both corporal and capital punishment have been abolished, and the prevention of re-offending has taken on a greater importance over the punishment of offenders. There is also a live debate about the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

For some, magistrates, and especially lay magistrates, sometimes seem like the ogres in the system. They …

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Opinion: Control orders – not the only problem with restrictions on liberty

How far do we want to permit detention without trial? If Control Orders are regarded as an unacceptable deprivation of liberty under Article 5 of the ECHR legislation, what are we to make of police officers who summarily impose long curfews on those arrested but not charged with any offence?

Fanciful as it may seem, it is perfectly possible for a police officer to arrest someone, take them to a police station, have an interview with them, and then release the person on police bail for four weeks but impose a curfew from 9pm to 6am requiring the person to …

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Opinion: A good news story – and a clear justification for the Pupil Premium

Why are ministers turning stories into bad news? Perhaps the ‘age of austerity’ has addled their brains or are they are still operating in ‘opposition mode’. Nick Gibbs’s announcement of the Key State 1 results is a case in point.

Now I know Nick Gibbs has an agenda to mandate synthetic phonics as the only way to teach reading – see the DfE Business Plan – and the contradiction between that level of prescription and ‘freeing up the curriculum’ is but one part of the muddle that is policy-making within Sanctuary Buildings at present.

But, that’s not the story here.

Rather there …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 14 Comments

Opinion: Nobody ever said government was easy

I attended my first Liberal Party Conference at Blackpool in 1968, in the days when our MPs could all fit in a taxi, rather than needing a rather large bus. Work in education prevented me attending regularly again until 1998, but I have been at every autumn conference since.

For those with long memories, 1998 was the year of the community school motion when, despite an impassioned speech by Phil Willis, the leadership lost the day, just as they did with amendment 2 on Monday: more about that later.

When I arrived in Liverpool on Friday afternoon, I detected a palpable …

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments
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    Having been so strong on a second referendum, the switch to "never mind that we'll just revoke" was a tricky play. A narrative was possible,...
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    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/constituencies/E14000697
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    There is nothing wrong with having a policy that at least half of UK would love to happen ie the continued involvement with the EU....
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    Peter Hirst What makes you think Britons living abroad cease to have contact with the UK? I was in the UK last month and what...
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    ‘The Liberal Democrats’ moderate message, with its admirable position on electoral reform, is compromised by the fantasy of revoking Brexit’ - Guardian editorial 11/12/19 What...
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    Well of to Cheadle I must go. Wife is not happy apparently I should spend my leave with her not delivering leaflets.
Tue 7th Jan 2020