Pubdate: Thu, 19 Apr 2007
Source: Cambridge Evening News (UK)
Copyright: 2007 Cambridge Newspapers Ltd
Cited: Legalise Cannabis Alliance
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


REBEL magistrate Alan Williams says he has been overwhelmed by
nationwide support since resigning in protest at new Government fines
for offenders.

Mr Williams told the News of his surprise at the backing he has
received from colleagues and the public since refusing to impose the
UKP15 "victims' surcharge" during a case at Ely Magistrates' Court.

And the 60-year-old from Burwell believes the magistrates' revolt will

The Government says the surcharge will fund support services for the
victims of serious crimes, particularly domestic violence, but many
magistrates argue it penalises minor offenders for unrelated crimes
like speeding.

Members of the public have declared strong support for Mr Williams on
websites, while a JP from Lincolnshire and one from Cumbria have
followed his lead by resigning.

The other JP on the three-person bench in Ely who backed Mr Williams,
Colonel Johnny Kay, has not resigned and will go before the advisory
committee for Cambridgeshire magistrates. He could then be referred to
the Office for Judicial Complaints and sacked.

Mr Williams, a former deputy chairman of the East Cambridgeshire
bench, said: "There are many other magistrates who feel equally
strongly. I spoke to one person in Cornwall who is considering whether
to resign. It is not the end of the story.

"I felt I had no alternative but to resign. Other magistrates are
staying within the service in order to apply pressure to get the thing
changed. I think both views are legitimate, but I did not feel I had
the luxury of staying on.

"The support has been overwhelming - it has been very gratifying. It
shows the issue has hit a public nerve. So many people are commenting
on it."

Although Mr Williams is pleased the issue has been brought to wider
attention, he does not believe the Government will listen to
magistrates' concerns.

He said: "The past history of this Government is that they tend not to
take any notice of anyone, even when they are demonstrably wrong."

Since Mr Williams resigned after refusing to impose the surcharge on a
young man fined for possessing a small amount of cannabis, Judith
Johnson has stepped down from her role as a JP in Barrow-in-Furness
and Christopher Foster has done the same in Boston.

Mr Foster, 63, said: "I think it is unfair because it is a tax, not a
fine. I'm not a tax collector."

Mr Williams has also stirred up unrest in normally laid-back

Dilys Wood, a spokeswoman for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, said:
"We can only hope that all magistrates and judges faced with imposing
this unfair and unjust surcharge will accept that cannabis possession
is a crime without victims, and follow the example of Mr Williams by
resigning in protest."
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