Monday, March 14, 2011

Bungee Judge

A number of the inhabitants of my little bit of England get a fair bit of coverage on the front and back pages of the tabloids, so when their business makes it into court there tends to be quite a buzz about the trial.

I've not sat on any of the newsworthy cases before and frankly I was looking forward to reporting here how it feels to be involved in one.

So when I heard that a particular lady was due in court on one of my days, I thought that my chance had come.

I arrived early, around 09:00, went to the retiring room and read the order of business - no mention of the lady in question. One of my colleagues turned up and asked if I wanted to see the cells under the court - she knew one of the security guys well and he wouldn't mind giving us a tour. Excellent idea.

The cells are ancient - very minimal - the main feature being that the heating comes up through the bottom of a long metal bench. The facilities for the prisoners were much better than those provided for the guards I couldn't help noticing, but even so, not even up to Travelodge standards.

The guard's walkie-talkie squawked and we were told we had to leave because prisoners were arriving. We stepped out into the compound in time to see a WPC handcuffed to a very tall black woman in a very short red dress. You can tell I have reached a certain age because my mental reaction wasn't "Phwoarr!" - instead it was "By 'eck, she's not really dressed for this".

We went back to the retiring room to find a District Judge fresh off the train from London. Nobody knew he was coming but apparently we needed to move to a neighbouring court room for a Domestic Violence trial and he was to take care of the rest of the day's business, including the Lady in Red.

Now, I'm not usually a conspiracy theorist, but ... Is it possible that The Powers That Be don't trust Lay Magistrates with newsworthy trials ?

The most damning piece of evidence I can find is that the biscuits in his retiring room were just the normal Magistrate selection - the admin staff hadn't had enough notice to nip out and get the special Judge-quality biscuits made from caviar, saffron and gold-dust before the DJ parachuted in.

As it was, our trial ended up lasting all day and it was challenging and fascinating and really quite rewarding. Hizzonnah next door dealt with the lady in a few minutes and then presumably got the next train back to London. I can report that a racket was briefly made by the members of the press and other interested bystanders, but unfortunately I still can't tell you how it feels to be in the glare of media attention. Sorry.

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