Friday, January 27, 2006

The Price of Fame

A District Judge at an East London court has remanded Pete Doherty, a pop singer, in custody on drugs charges today. I have nothing to say about Mr. Doherty or about today’s bail decision but I do sympathise with any court that finds itself dealing with someone famous.

We have seen a few such cases, and the first indication that something is up is usually a posse of journalists and cameramen outside the court. We can rely on our court staff to sort out access to the press seats (which will never hold a quarter of those wanting to get in) and organise some sort of pooling arrangement. A couple of local policemen will keep an eye on the crowd, and it is usual to get the case on as early as possible so that the court can then quickly get back to normal and crack on with its daily business.

Magistrates are ordinary people, who read the same papers and watch the same TV as everyone else. The bench will have to brace themselves to treat the case in exactly the same way as any other. The pressure of a full press gallery, and the certainty that the court’s decision will be on the day’s news is a stern test of the magistrates’ training and experience, but they can cope with that.

What happens when the case gets before a jury can be another matter altogether.

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