Monday, February 20, 2006

Apocrypha 15

It is a human characteristic going back to our simian relatives that a common reaction to fear or surprise is an uncontrollably silly grin. For that reason those involved in training new JPs caution against misinterpreting a smirk as some kind of disrespect, rather than of nervousness in the intimidating setting of a courtroom. "What are you grinning at? Do you find this funny?" is now a complete no-no, although when I first joined the bench there were a couple of nearly-retired magistrates who might just have gone in that direction.

Every now and again a friend or family member might come to court in anticipation of my buying them lunch, and when I catch their eye a grin is inevitable. Best of all is when a police officer whom I might have met in a different context comes into the courtroom and looks up to see me. What he is thinking is "Oh Bugger". What I get is a daft grin.

Of course I maintain the dignity of the bench, and the officer will go on to do his business. But he knows the score, and so do I.

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