You need to do a minimum of three court observations before they let you loose on a court as a new magistrate. As my day-job didn't need me yesterday, I went to the nearest big city to see what Justice looked like over there.
The Magistrate Court in that city is new and immense with 17 active courtrooms on the day I visited. This contrasts sharply with the 2 courts I'm used to.
The lady in charge of the rota of 450 magistrates met me once I'd cleared security and took me into the Magistrates' common room. Here were 50+ of her charges drinking coffee, reading newspapers and having animated discussions. I decided I'd like to see an actual trial, so she found a suitable courtroom and introduced me to the chairman who was delighted to allow me to observe, although he did insist on teasing me about the number of "poultry rustling" trials I'd have to sit through in my country courtroom.
As it turned out I can't think of many differences between the procedure or workload of the big city court and my court in the outer suburbs. We have after all got the same Guidelines and the same issues with alcohol, drugs and lousy driving.
I certainly envied the camaraderie of the large common room, but the many small, modern courtrooms had a bit of the feel of the multiplex cinema about them, except that the chairs disappointingly did not have drink-holders in the arms.
The observations have been useful. I've seen how things actually work rather than the way they ought to work. I've seen defendants and victims have a slanging match they definitely wouldn't have wanted the Magistrates to see. And I've seen the way three different legal advisors have banged heads together to move things along so that the Magistrates just need to show up and do their job.
I'll let you know if I ever do get a "poultry rustling" case, but for now the only poultry I'm concerned with is the one I'm going to cook with all the trimmings tomorrow. Hope you all have a Merry Christmas.