Warwick Crown Court judge His Honour Judge Richard Griffith-Jones hears his final case - The Leamington Observer

Warwick Crown Court judge His Honour Judge Richard Griffith-Jones hears his final case

Leamington Editorial 29th Jun, 2017   0

WARWICK Crown Court’s popular and widely-respected senior judge, His Honour Judge Richard Griffith-Jones has sat for his final day before retiring, writes Paul Beard.
Judge Griffith-Jones, commonly referred to around the court simply as RGJ, has been the senior, or ‘Resident Judge,’ at the court since 2011.
At the same time he also became senior judge at Coventry Crown Court, where he is the Honorary Recorder of Coventry.
Brought up in Coleshill, where his father was a vet, he studied law at Leeds University before qualifying as a barrister and being ‘called to the bar,’ in July 1974.
From 1975 he appeared as a barrister at the historic crown court in Warwick on a regular basis, sitting as a recorder – or part-time judge – at various courts in the 90s before being appointed a judge in 1999.
Judge Griffith-Jones sat mainly at Birmingham Crown Court where he estimates he spent about a third of his time sitting in the Family Court.
He was then appointed Resident Judge at Warwick Crown Court in March 2011, three months after it had moved to its current home in the Warwickshire Justice Centre in Leamington, and Honorary Recorder of Coventry.
During his time in those roles, Judge Griffith-Jones has seen a number of significant changes, including a reduction in sittings at Coventry to a fortnight every two months.
At the time that took place, he declared that his intention was that, whenever possible, he would be at Coventry when that court was sitting.
Although one of his regrets is that he was not always able to do so, he takes satisfaction from the fact that, unless he had been trying a long-running trial at Warwick Crown Court, or was sitting in the Court of Appeal, he had kept to that promise.
Judge Griffith-Jones pointed out that between them the two courts, run as one court centre ‘with only a few number of courts,’ serve nearly a million people, with around 620,000 living in Warwickshire and 330,000 in Coventry.
And he said: “I would like to say how well I think the court staff have done to be able to manage such a large throughput throgh so few court outlets.
“I know the presiding judges are looking to expand capacity in one way or another.”
Speaking in his room at Warwick Crown Court, the judge said: “We are very conscious of the importance of the city of Coventry, and here we are just outside the boundary, serving the people of Coventry, whether or not the court is always sitting within its “We are keen that the people of Coventry know we are serving them, albeit six or seven miles outside the boundary.
He had hoped that in the weeks when the court in Coventry was sitting, it would deal with Coventry cases, with Warwickshire cases being dealt with at the court in Leamington.
Judge Griffith-Jones agreed that had not happened, and had sometimes caused confusion about where a case was to be heard.
But he explained that often it was because barristers or solicitors, whether for the prosecution or defence, also had other cases on a particular day – so they had to be listed at the same court.
His role as senior judge at the two courts also involved a lot of work out of court, of which he said: “It has been a real pleasure, because it has brought me into contact with so many people.”
“One of the things I have really learned is what goodwill and integrity there is in the system, so that behind the scenes people are genuinely trying to make things better.
“I think the public would be quite pleased if they could see the honesty of the intention that goes into things. We should all be grateful for that.
“I don’t think the public realises how much hard work is done behind the scenes, and how considerate the staff behind the scenes are, trying to balance competing interests. That is what has impressed me about the staff here, the level of dedication.”
For the past four years Judge Griffith-Jones has also sat in the Court of Appeal, which he said he considered ‘the greatest privilege, because you are in a team with extremely able people.’
But his heart remains local – and he has taken pleasure in being a member of the Coventry Good Citizen Awards panel, adding: “If I am sitting here rather than in London, I have always tried to attend.”
Although retiring, and planning to indulge his passion for travel, as well as spending time with his family, Judge Griffith-Jones said he may sit occasionally at Coventry as a ‘deputy judge.’

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