Suffolk solicitor sworn in as a new Deputy District Judge

Claire Furlong has been sworn in as a new Deputy District Judge.

Claire Furlong has been sworn in as a new Deputy District Judge. - Credit: Rachael Causton

A Suffolk solicitor has been sworn in as a Deputy District Judge at a ceremony at Ipswich Crown Court.

Claire Furlong, who has worked in Colchester and Bury St Edmunds since becoming a solicitor in 2003, will sit in magistrates courts in the South East of England and London.

During the ceremony on Thursday ( April 21) Judge Martyn Levett congratulated her on her appointment which he said was part of a recruitment drive to fill vacancies due to retirements and an ever-increasing heavy workload in magistrates courts.

During his welcoming speech Judge Levett spoke of the responsibility of judges to make difficult decisions.

He said: “Judges must have moral courage to make decisions that will be unpopular with the politicians, the media and the public. They must have that most important of all qualities, which is the moral courage to defend the right to equal treatment before the law of those who are themselves unpopular at any given time. 

“You will be asked to try cases which attract considerable publicity. Holders of a judicial office do not court media headlines or get drawn into public controversy, even though they may be called upon to adjudicate on matters of public and media interest (as recent events have shown with cases involving Insulate Britain protesters),” said Judge Levett.

“This year, plans announced by the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, means that the maximum six month prison sentence that can currently be imposed in a Magistrates Court will be doubled to 12 months. 

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“The Government believe this will free-up an estimated 2,000 extra days of Crown Court time each year. Retaining more cases in the Magistrates’ Courts, means Crown Courts can focus their resources on tackling the backlog which has built up during the pandemic. 

“Opponents of the increase, such as the Howard League for Penal Reform, argue that to extend the sentencing powers will increase what was already a bloated and overcrowded prison system, and that more defendants, realising that they potentially face a year-long sentence in the Magistrates’ Courts, are likely to elect for a Crown Court trial instead. I sincerely hope that these gloomy predictions will be proved wrong."