Sunday, March 26, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

This week’s sitting was a really busy day in the remand court. Business in other courtrooms had overrun, so we were left to get through the work without the assistance of other benches. We had a heavy list - simple remands and committals can be dealt with in a few minutes, and we heard no opposed bail applications (which was just as well, as these can be very time-consuming) but we were nevertheless under pressure. In-custody cases took priority, as they must do, but several matters required us to spend some time on them. There were simple sentences, mostly for drink driving, but two more complex ones, one of them right on a knife-edge between prison and a top-end community penalty. The defendant was a woman with just about every problem you can imagine: drugs, alcohol, housing, employment, and a violent and abusive relationship. The offence that she had committed is one that is commonly sent up to the Crown Court, so we had to balance case law against the Probation report and the mitigation from her first-class solicitor. So, list or no list, we took the time to consider the reports and legal submissions very carefully, before - just - deciding on a suspended prison sentence. Kleenex time again for the usher.
Case followed case, about fifty people in all, facing about eighty separate offences. We nearly got it finished, but even without the staff work-to-rule we could not have done them all, as there were a handful of pre-sentence reports that would have taken at least twenty minutes each and possibly more, so just after 4.30 we had to call it a day and authorize the clerk to bail off all those we hadn’t dealt with. Frustrating for us, frustrating for the defendants and their lawyers, but there was nothing else we could have done. Ironically, in the same courtroom seven days earlier we were on our way home at 2.55 p.m., the list done and dusted.

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