Could you send someone to prison if they had been found guilty of a crime deserving that sentence?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.
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 ?
Do you have any prejudices ?My head hurts - I finished the interview and went home to sleep off a piledriver migraine that only lifted in the evening.
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 ?
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.
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.
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 ?
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.