Monday, January 17, 2011


Today was one of those days - any magistrate will have seen something similar.
I battled through the traffic, but I was relaxed because I had allowed an extra ten minutes for the journey; it was only just enough though. I walked in to the freezing courthouse (the heating hadn't come back on after the weekend, but an engineer was en route. He knows the way well because the heating and air con is clapped out (TJNML).
An usher came in with a piece of paper. There had been a crash on one of the main routes to the court, and three magistrates, one prosecutor, one defence lawyer, several witnesses and one Crown Prosecutor were all caught in the jams. Ten o'clock came, and one court went in to deal with the usual morning task of applications for search warrants, Rights of Entry warrants, Statutory Declarations and the like. The rest of us fetched more coffee and got on with grumbling, as magistrates do when stuck out the back with nothing to occupy them. Court Three made a start at about 10.20 but the rest of us didn't get under way until nearer 10.40.
A couple of clerks and the chief usher then gathered at the back of the court, and we were asked to retire while the day's workload was rearranged, because another court's trial had collapsed as they do, despite half a dozen witnesses having turned up. We decided to close one court and to divvy up the remand work between two courtrooms that have secure docks. That meant three magistrates weren't needed, so I and two colleagues volunteered to go, allowing others who don't sit all that often to stay on. I set off for home, popped into the pub on the dot of 12, endured some coarse and tasteless gibes about my being in a suit and tie from Roger the barman (he knows nothing - he's a Millwall supporter for heaven's sake) and was indoors by half past one. These things happen, and they happen too often, but most of the foul-ups were beyond the court's control.

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