A MAGISTRATE has stepped down from his post after almost two decades because he won't punish people for breaching a policy he deems to be unfair.

Nick Colbourne, from Wrexham, served as a Magistrate in Mold and Wrexham Law Courts for 18 years.

The 66-year-old former North Wales Police officer and Wrexham county councillor said his main reason for the decision to step down is his opposition to the nationally imposed 20mph scheme.

He told the Leader he feels very "uneasy" about the possibility of punishing someone who breaks the speed limit by doing 24 or 25mph, which would result in a £100 fine and penalty points - not to mention court costs and a victim surcharge.

"I'm not going to do it," he said.

"That's not what court's about - it feels like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

"Some people are going to be caught more than once. If you get 12 points, you're looking at a six month ban under the totting up scheme.

"We all accept 20mph outside schools, but I don't think blanket coverage across Wales was the answer.

The Leader: 20mph

"If an idiot is going to drive through somewhere at say 60mph, they're going to do it whether the limit is 20 or 30."

Mr Colbourne explained that whilst sitting as chair of the Magistrates, other aspects of legislation have caused him frustration where they don't appear to gel with common sense.

"I genuinely had a man in court a few months ago who had done 62 miles per hour on the A483 in Wrexham," he explained.

"The signs there say the 50mph speed limit is in place due 'to pollution', but this man was driving an electric van - presumably that's what the government ultimately wants us to do [to tackle pollution].

"But if you're in an electric vehicle, how are you creating any more pollution? They can't justify it.

"It's another ill thought out piece of legislation that says 'you will drive at 50mph on the A483. It's madness."

More "hoops" to jump through

He explained his reasons for becoming a Magistrate were to continue to serve the community after he left the police.

But over the years, he said, Magistrates have been expected to jump through more and more 'hoops' to be able to do the job and there doesn't appear to be as much 'appreciation' for the fact that they are volunteers.

"There's far too much interference," he said.

"It used to be that if the police wanted a search warrant, or the local authority needed a warrant for a child in concerning circumstances for example, you'd issue them.

"But now it's been decided that you need a special ability to do that, so you have to be on a panel.

"And the same thing's been done with Magistrates sitting in Crown Court on appeals; only a select few now sit in Crown Court.

"It's hoops to jump through to do basic stuff - they have decided 'no, we need a specialised number of people doing this' and I don't agree with it.

"If you've been accepted onto the bench, you've shown a level of competence and trustworthiness by that fact."

He also explained the courts are "overworked" - with too many hearings listed on many of the days he has sat on the bench having to be adjourned due to a lack of court time.

Praise for former colleagues

The ex-police officer explained his previous career likely helped him to acclimate to the sometimes difficult things courts hear regarding the circumstances of crimes.

He added: "You certainly hear some upsetting things in court, and I have never had a colleague who wasn't up to the challenge - they have all done a great job.

"I have never felt let down by any of them - Magistrates or legal advisors, they have always been very supportive.

"And the solicitors - the people of Wrexham and Mold are very fortunate to have the quality of legal representatives we have around here.

"I shall miss the chance of not saying thank you for the support of everyone over the last 18 years."

The response

The Welsh Government issued a statement to the Leader to "refute" Mr Colbourne's assertions regarding the speed limits.

A spokesman said: “The 50mph speed restrictions on some of our most polluted roads are there to support compliance with statutory nitrogen dioxide limits for public health.

“Data clearly demonstrates the positive impact these speed limits have on air quality across all locations.

“Introducing different speed limits for electric cars would lead to road safety issues and reduce effectiveness.”

The spokesman added that electric vehicles (EVs) do not produce exhaust pollution, but "still produce particulate matter (PM)" pollution due to tyre and road wear and that "heavier cars, as EVs tend to be, also create proportionally more PM."

On the 20mph limits, the spokesman continued: "We recognise this is a major change, but it is saving lives and making our communities safer for everyone, including motorists.

"We continue to work closely with emergency services and other agencies to engage with drivers about the benefits of slower speeds.”

The Welsh Government also stated that a Justice Impact Assessment was carried out as part of laying the legislation for 20mph - and it concluded that there is only likely to be "a slight impact on the justice system" and therefore a full Justice Impact Assessment was not necessary.


Local authorities, GoSafe, the Police and the Fire and Rescue Services are supporting behavioural change, the Welsh Government added, to help drivers understand and adhere to the new 20mph default speed limit on restricted roads. 

This includes "roadside engagement for those caught marginally over the new speed limit."

The Welsh Government added that "only those with total disregard for the speed limit will be prosecuted in the usual manner, with fine and points, or in extreme cases go to court."

A Judicial Office spokesman said: “ We continue to appreciate and value the hugely important voluntary work of magistrates across England and Wales and comprehensive training and resources are provided to support their vital work through the Judicial College.”

Magistrates’ Association Chief Executive Tom Franklin said: "Magistrates’ efforts are not properly appreciated, and the Magistrates’ Association is working for better recognition of their invaluable contribution to the justice system. 

"Last year, we published a landmark report revealing that thousands of magistrates—unpaid volunteers—are left out of pocket when giving back to their communities in this way.

"The main reason respondents to our survey said they might resign from the magistracy was due to not feeling valued. 

"The magistracy relies on the goodwill of volunteers and that goodwill needs to be nurtured, not taken for granted."

Ongoing charity work

Mr Colbourne said he is now going to focus on his efforts on his charity work, particularly supporting police officers and staff, as well as their families, who have been affected by suicide.

For the last two years, he has been a trustee of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SoBS) - which he sought out after a Magisterial colleague took her own life.

He explained: "I wanted to do something positive to remember her.

"Although we run self help peer groups nationwide - and that's Brighton up to Edinburgh and rapidly expanding - we're not in Wales as much as I'd like. 

"That will change and I'm also proud to say we're launching two online groups for police families and colleagues, which my colleagues call 'Nick's'. 

"They are coming in on a date in November."