Being fair is bench mark for justice

NICHOLAS Moss says probation officers work for the silent service because so many people do not know what their job involves. Mr Moss said: Officers make offenders face up to the consequences of their offences, said Mr Moss. They can change and be la

NICHOLAS Moss says probation officers work for the 'silent service' because so many people do not know what their job involves.

Mr Moss said: "Officers make offenders face up to the consequences of their offences," said Mr Moss.

"They can change and be law-abiding contributing citizens.

"The probation service is an enormous benefit to society, and better than short spells in prison.

"Community service, for example, is a positive sentence, and makes offenders give something back to the community.

"Probations commitment and their belief that people can change is enormously inspiring.

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"It's always encouraging to see people turn the corner."

Mr Moss has worked his way up the criminal justice system for the last 20 years.

He began his court career in 1983 when he was appointed a magistrate in Humberside.

And until recently he was chairman of the Herts Probation Area Board.

He was also chairman of North Hertfordshire Magistrates.

Mr Moss said it was an 'honour' to be elected by his peers.

"I enjoyed my time. It was fantastic. Because you get exposed to other parts of the justice system you realise no system is perfect, but it has amazing public support.

"I have learned a huge amount, and seen a lot of changes take place over the years.

"The areas that have seen a huge modernisation are sentencing guidelines which have been given greater consistency, and the new court service, which is necessary and long overdue.

"Both give the system more scope and flexibility."

As a magistrate, Mr Moss believes fair judgement is the key to making day-to-day decisions.

"The aim of a magistrate is to be fair," he said. "Fair to the defendant and fair to the world at large."

Mr Moss has always been familiar with the criminal justice system, going back to the days when he was sitting in on court cases as a young reporter.

"When I began on the local paper I had to cover local magistrates courts two or three times a week.

"I was taught the importance of being correct and having the facts.

"If I didn't I would get a horrendous telling off, but it made me a better journalist.

"I found courts fascinating and thought it was something I would like to do myself in the future.

"I think my time as a reporter helped me as a magistrate."

Recalling his days as a reporter, Mr Moss said he covered everything from whippet racing to 999 emergencies, but thinks today's journalists have it easier.

"Back then there was a romance to the process, from the typewriter to sending reports from the vacuum tubes to the printing works.

"Compared to today's technology, the process was very prehistoric, but enormously enjoyable.

"I met all sorts of people and had a great affection for the community.

"I used to walk around and people would stop to chat to me, and I became part of the community.

"People are endlessly fascinating.

"Doing my bench work is similar, because again you get to know people, but in a different context.

"Overall, I have enjoyed doing both - working on papers and sitting on the bench.

"They have been enormously interesting and it has been a privilege to have a chance to contribute.

"But now it's time to do something different."

One of Mr Moss' interests is the role probation officers play in rehabilitating offenders, an area which he says he would like to work more closely with in the future when he steps down as chairman of the Herts Probation Service later this month.

"I have a real belief that people can change."

The aim of the probation service is to put low-risk offenders on the right track, in the hope that they will not offend again, through guidance and challenging their behaviour.

Away from the court, Mr Moss says he likes to watch old black and white British thrillers, read biographies, "from Barbara Windsor to the Duke of Windsor", and paint in water colours "badly."

He also hopes to carry on working in the criminal justice sector.

He said: "You can't live in a world where there's no crime, but you can reduce it."

The Crow Interview

As a magistrate Nicholas Moss is used to asking questions - after all, he was a journalist.

But when Crow reporters JOANNE JARVIS and TOM BROWN quizzed him about his career the tables were turned.

The former Harrogate Herald reporter talked about the "prehistoric" hot metal days, life in the courtroom, and the benefits of the probation system.