Sunday, July 12, 2009

Déja Lu

The study of literature teaches, above all, that however much human circumstances may change, human nature remains the same.

This came home to me with some force the other day when a 25 year-old scion of one of our very extended local families whose members have kept our court in business and our local solicitors in groceries for many years appeared in custody charged with a residential burglary. He peered under his brows until he located half a dozen relatives in the public gallery, greeting them with a nod, then cast a surly glance at the bench. "Just a moment sir" called the usher, and then a small boy walked in accompanied by his enormous grandmother. They were sat in the well of the court, along with a member of the Youth Offending Team.
I glanced at the list, and saw that the two were jointly charged, the younger being 12 years old. Apparently his uncle had lifted the boy up to enter a house via the fanlight window, whereupon he had opened the door to admit the older man. The whole thing was pure 'Oliver Twist' - the two characters would have been perfect to play Sykes and Oliver.
So we remanded Bill Sykes in custody, and bailed Oliver to the next available Youth Court. Procedures have changed over the years, but Charles Dickens would have recognised the whole scenario. And in 150 years' time, I have no doubt that something similar will come before my successors.

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