Friday, February 08, 2008

Don't vote Stan - he's not ready yet

Could you send someone to prison if they had been found guilty of a crime deserving that sentence?

How about if that person were a woman and as a result her children had to be taken into care ?

How would you react if the press got hold of the story and splashed your name across the papers ?

How would your wife react ?

How about your daughter ?
Today was my first interview on the way to becoming a Magistrate. The interviewers were experienced and friendly but it was quite a grilling. I am used to being the most knowledgeable person in the room when I'm being interviewed in a work context. This brings easy confidence. Here I was a long way off the pace and I waffled and umm'ed and ah'ed in a way I've not done for a long time.

Do you have any prejudices ?

Do you think the sentences being handed down by the courts are too soft ?

What are the issues in the Criminal Justice system just now ?

What makes you angry ?

What are the signs that you are angry ?
My head hurts - I finished the interview and went home to sleep off a piledriver migraine that only lifted in the evening.

The issues confronting Magistrates are so complex and intractible and require oodles of wisdom and compassion and commitment. I've always fancied I had something of a Mind, but I've seen today just how much I have to learn. And also that I am some way short of being able to construct a coherent train-of-thought under pressure. I even forgot the legal term for releasing someone pending trial - it's "bail" for heavens sake - my brain just went walkabout for way too much of the proceedings.

I just hope I gave the interviewers enough so that they can see beyond my stuttering, meandering performance and that maybe with some training and some experience I might be safely let loose on a court.

What skills and experience make you suited to being a Magistrate ?

What are the crime issues in your local area ?

Is it safe to walk through your town at night ?

How would you react if you disagreed with a majority decision to send someone to prison?

Would you be likely to take your feeling home with you and dwell on it ?

Magistrates are unpaid, do a difficult job and open themselves up to a kicking from the media and the public. If nothing else this experience has given me a new respect for the work they do. Like most people I've taken the "rule of law" for granted - it's something you hardly notice - and only when it goes wrong for you or someone you care for. The truth is that a whole lot of dedicated public servants work hard to make it possible.

I've also had a wake-up call that maybe I'm not as competent, clever and articulate as I thought I was. Maybe I'm a bit smug and limited and haven't seriously pushed myself for really quite a long time.

Don't vote Stan - he's not ready yet.

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