If you get the chance, take a look at the best thing written about the cable car yet, by Owen Hatherley for the Guardian website. In it, he says Boris Johnson has run London like a “twee nostalgia theme park” – a description that could arguably apply to the “royal” borough of Greenwich, in all its forelock-tugging glory.
The Council is requested to –
Appoint His Honour Judge Hilliard QC as the Honorary Recorder for the Royal Borough of Greenwich for the duration of tenure as the Resident Judge at Woolwich Crown Court pursuant to Section 54 of the Courts Act, 1971.
A borough or city has the power to appoint the senior judge at the court which serves it to the position of “honorary recorder”, with the aim of preserving ancient links between cities and the judiciary which existed before the old assizes system was abolished in 1972.
They’re rare in London, where the boroughs don’t have much heritage as institutions – the City has one, who still has a formal role within the square mile’s governance, who sits at the Old Bailey. The others are in Croydon, Kensington & Chelsea, Redbridge, Southwark and Westminster.
The appointment means Judge Nicholas Hillard QC can wear red robes in court and be addressed as “my lord”, rather than “your honour”. But what’s in it for us? According to the council…
The Honorary Recorder is an honorific position and provides a bridge between the judiciary and local government and thus the wider community. One of the roles of the Honorary Recorder would be to attend the inauguration of the Mayor and to be invited to other meetings and civic functions as appropriate, this could include civic receptions, freedom of the borough ceremonies and civic week.
As we all know, it’s local government and the “wider community” which really needs linking up – after all, we don’t get invited to any civic receptions. This has the potential to be a massive waste of time, doesn’t it?
Well, yes, it does. But hopefully Judge Hillard can prove this sceptical post wrong. His colleague, Judge Roger Chapple, has been striking out to do good things in Southwark, where’s he’s borough recorder.
According to the excellent London SE1 site, the Inner London Crown Court judge has been speaking of the need to reconnect the courts with the community.
“Daily I and my fellow judges see the ghastly, corrosive effect of local crime – much of it knife crime, much of it gang related.
“I can’t help thinking that my court could do something more to help in the fight against crime.
“Soon after arriving at Inner London Crown Court, I tried to start an initiative by writing to the local schools and inviting them to send groups for visits: to watch a case in action, meet a judge, to sit in the dock.
“Very, very few replies were received – sadly none of them positive.”
“I’m going to try again; with the additional clout that you have given me as the honorary recorder of Southwark I might achieve more than I did last time around.”
With Woolwich Crown Court these days located in the Belmarsh Prison complex in west Thamesmead, and better known for staging high-profile terrorism cases, the court has the additional disadvantage of being physically isolated from its community.
So hopefully Judge Hillard will use his position to break down a few walls between us and them. Otherwise, he’ll just be another trinket to be wheeled out whenever the council wants to wine and dine a selected few. With council budgets still being cut, spending time and money on another heritage adventure risks leaving a bad taste in the mouth.
If you’re quick, you can put a public question into next Wednesday’s council meeting (which will approve the appointment) to be answered by cabinet members or the leader. (Here’s what happened last time.) Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon today.