Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Hand That Signed The Paper

Dylan Thomas' poem tells of the impersonal mighty power of the hand that holds the pen that signs the document that ... etc. etc. ...

My hand hardly "felled a city", but it did have an eventful session in court recently.

First up, a local butcher had fallen well short of the hygiene laws and was in big trouble with Environmental Health. The tainted meat products had been confiscated and it was down to us to order their destruction. We were offered the chance to inspect them, but just looking at the photos were enough to convince us. In fact they were bad enough to turn the three of us vegetarian on the spot.

And so, with the stroke of a pen, meat was declared unfit and sent off for destruction.

Weird - when I heard the clerks talk about "all the pork pies downstairs", I assumed they were using cockney rhyming slang.

Before the next case, a constable needed a search warrant signed. He had some excellent reasons and so the document was signed. In this case, I did it personally. My scrawl with a borrowed biro meant that someone in a neighbouring big city is going to have a bunch of size twelve boots coming their door one early morning soon. It's a strange feeling signing such a document.

There followed a series of complex and rather stressful cases. So complex in fact that we twice had a split decision, the second one of these was my first experience of being outvoted.

That case involved a man suffering with a variety of mental illnesses, who committed crimes on three separate occasions while on a Suspended sentence. The theory with suspended sentence is that it is activated if you mess up even once. I thought three times was plenty, but my colleagues were swayed by his fragile mental state, so we gave him a curfew, which given his reported agoraphobia probably wasn't that much of a punishment.

The day ended around four and I went home with a sledgehammer headache. Some days I feel a toaster could sit in my seat and the outcome would be the same.

That day though, I honestly felt that I made a difference.

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