Wednesday, October 14, 2009

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It's unusual for our court to see simple traffic cases. By and large, people tend to grudgingly pay the fixed penalty rather than to take on the inconvenience of defending themselves and to risk the possibility of receiving a much bigger fine.

Which was why it was a shock to see Private X the other day, fighting a minor traffic ticket (£60 fine plus 3 points).

He had actually flown back from his unit abroad at his own expense to defend the charge, had rented a decent lawyer, and had compiled a big thick dossier of photos and text (most of it of dubious relevance).

We heard the police evidence, were easily convinced by it, and fined the soldier more than twice the amount of the original ticket plus a contribution to the sizeable prosecution costs plus the blessed victims' surcharge.

Afterwards, off the record, the prosecutor shook her head and said she couldn't understand why he fancied his chances. She was plainly annoyed, saying that her department was run off its feet, and that the man-days devoted to this case were man-days that couldn't be spent on, for example, making a successful prosecution in a murder case.

Obviously that's just too bad - Private X has an absolute right to his day in court and the people our prosecutor should be angry with are the ones who are underfunding her department.

I had a theory why Private X came to court, but I kept quiet. You see, I had noticed that their first-born was in the back seat of the car at the time of the offence, and that Mrs Private X had been heavily pregnant. Was it possible that he just fancied a few days away from his unit at home with his wife and toddler and brand-new baby ? Would it have been worth risking a few hundred pounds to make it happen ?

In fact, would I be tempted, in his shoes, to do exactly that myself ?

I will, for once, take advantage of my right to silence.

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