Richard calls time on the bench

JUST PEACE: Former Justice of the Peace Richard Kemp.

JUST PEACE: Former Justice of the Peace Richard Kemp.

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Public duty is something that comes naturally to Long Melford stalwart Richard Kemp.

The 70-year-old is a district and county councillor, and serves on both Long Melford and Alpheton parish councils. He has also been a school governor.

Now, after 36 years, he has retired as a magistrate serving Long Melford and is writing his memoirs after spending over half his life in public service.

The former Melford Hardware shop owner was born in Long Melford and has lived there all his life, the third generation of his family to do so.

He said his working class background, and being the youngest of a family of nine children, stood him in good stead for understanding the people he has come into contact with over the years.

Commenting on the job, he said: “In the main, it was dominated by the middle classes.

“I can always remember Charles Herbert, the vicar of Melford and member of the parish council, saying ‘Richard, I cannot believe it – you of all people becoming a magistrate.’

“I interpreted his comments to mean that, although I had never walked the earth with a halo over my head, I was to join what could be construed as a pillar of the establishment.

“I told Charles that it was good to have a person on the bench who had been through the problems that most working people have to face, day-to-day.

“It helped that I was the youngest of nine children and that I’d been through the mill. For me, from a humble working class background, it was quite an elevation.”

He said he was disappointed his long service had not been recognised or thanked by the Judiciary who sit above magistrates.

“I have not even had the courtesy of a letter thanking me for spending over half my life in public duty,” he said.

“I place on record my thanks to my fellow magistrates at Bury St Edmunds who were gracious to thank me and present me with a gift to mark my retirement.”

Summing up his experiences, he added: “During my time, I think I had threats on about two occasions out of court but, in the main, I think people who break the law accept that someone has to administer punishment.”