In the interest of fair play

TO most people being fair is important. To Nicholas Moss it has been an integral part of his career. He has spent much of his working life making decisions which have seriously affected members of the public in one way or another. He was a journalist and

TO most people being fair is important. To Nicholas Moss it has been an integral part of his career.

He has spent much of his working life making decisions which have seriously affected members of the public in one way or another.

He was a journalist and went on to become the head of policy management at the BBC.

He has also been a magistrate for over 20 years, and recently had to stand down as chairman of the North Hertfordshire Bench after completing the maximum three-year stint.


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Mr Moss, 56, will give up being chairman of the Hertfordshire Probation Board at the end of March, and he is currently the independent chairman of North Hertfordshire District Council's standards committee, which deals with matters relating to the conduct and integrity of councillors and officers.

All in all, fairness and accuracy tend to be quite important to Mr Moss.

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"In court cases your job is to be fair to the people that appear before you," Mr Moss said.

"Part of the process involves unpicking information to make sure you reach a conclusion which is fair to the person appearing in court and that is fair to the society at large."

Mr Moss's career began on a Yorkshire newspaper before he joined a BBC local radio station and then moved on to BBC Television in London, where he eventually became Auntie's head of policy management.

Mr Moss said: "Normally my issues had to do with taste and decency and language which maybe fell short of people's expectations.

"People pay their licence fees and you're accountable to them. The BBC has huge penetration and huge public support, but when things go wrong, and things will go wrong because of the sheer scope of what it does, it's right that people have some way in which to voice their dissatisfaction.

"There was a Robbie Williams video for Rock DJ which was due to go out before the watershed on Top of the Pops.

"But after looking at it I thought it was wholly inappropriate for the pre-watershed audience and in the end we said it should be on much later.

"We had to identify what we called the 'wince factor' and try to avoid ambushing people. If people tune into a programme in the early evening they don't expect to be ambushed by material which most people would tend to regard as inappropriate for that time of day."

Becoming a magistrate stems from Mr Moss's time as a reporter in Yorkshire, and some of the skills he learnt back then still come in handy today.

"For many years I covered Harrogate Magistrates' Court as a cub reporter.

"I worked with a really fierce and good senior reporter who made sure we got our facts correct and he drummed into me the importance of accuracy. One of the ways of doing this was to cover court.

"The consequence of me sitting in court was watching the magistrates in action and I thought it was very interesting and I would like to be on the other side of the bench, dealing with cases and not reporting them.

"So in due course I was appointed as a magistrate in Humberside in 1983, and then I moved jobs, came south, and I started in North Hertfordshire in 1988.

"I was deputy chairman for several years and then for three years in 2004, 2005 and 2006 I was the chairman of the bench.

"I still use my shorthand in court. I've got shorthand forms that I've developed over the years for theft and burglary which I need to use a lot.

"Sitting on a magistrates' bench is a huge privilege. Here I am, sitting in judgment on my fellow citizens, and it is a big responsibility. It is also intellectually stimulating."

And is Mr Moss thinking about stepping down anytime soon?

"We can retire at 70, and I'm 56 now, so I've another 14 years left if I so choose.

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