Saturday, January 31, 2015

It’s not all about guilty or not guilty.(by Bystander N)



One day last week my courthouse played host to a group of youngsters from a primary school in our justice area, under the auspices of MiC.  Magistrates in the Community gives magistrates a chance to volunteer to talk to groups of school kids, university students or adults, about the court system either at the court or outside court.

First the group went into a court room before the start of business; whilst two magistrates explained generally what happens in court, about the offences dealt with etc. etc.  Witness Support came and spoke for a few minutes about how evidence is given by young people and the measures taken to help them to prepare for giving their evidence, and about screens and video link.  They saw the cells and a prison van thanks to the Serco staff who went out of their way to be helpful and spoke to the group about some of their work.  I’m pleased to report the kids definitely had no wish ever to see a cell or the inside of a van again.

Then it was into a court room’s public gallery.  Unfortunately they then spent quite some time listening to a case management form being completed which was hardly the lively cut and thrust they might have wanted to hear but we were in the real world.

Finally there was a question and answer session.  It was amazing how much of the detail they had picked up during the case management and of the bail conditions so they were clearly listening intently.  They asked a lot of very sensible questions.  They knew about several offences but it came as surprise that if they decided to stop going to school and play truant every day, their parents could face prosecution. 


All in all a very well worthwhile morning’s work and the future suddenly seems a little safer.

8 comments:

  1. Thank-you for taking the time to make this contribution to the community.

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  2. Well done - but I think your last sentence might need modification to reflect the damage being done by the MoJ to the lay benches and mags courts in general

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  3. MIC is a very worthwhile aspect of the Magistracy and I firmly believe that it's ability to influence the young is underestimated. I would dearly like to see more of this kind of thing going on. Sadly, within my own LJA, MIC activity is pretty much absent. One of our LAs does do work with kids and in response to a request from her, I have volunteered to acommpany her when she next goes along to a school.

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  4. We had a similar event and one of the boys seemed to be drawing as he listened.

    He later sent us the fruit of his work. It was a sketch of the (male) JP who had acted as Chair, turned into a hideous but recognisable caricature of Lord Goddard, complete with wig, gown, and black cap. God alone knows where he had read about Goddard or the cap but in any event that boy will go far.

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  5. Don't get all misty eyed, BS. As my old Headteacher remarked, "Remember, tomorrow's murderers are in today's schools."

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  6. MIC is the norm on our bench, with all three courthouses providing magistrates to speak at schools, WIs, rotaries etc, and there are also occasional court visits. We have three separate coordinators and a pool of around 30 justices, who do the presentations - powerpoint, sentencing exercises and mock trials - singly or as two-handers several times a month. Schools are the most rewarding, and many go on to compete in the county Mock Trial Competitions, in the hope of the reaching the regional then national finals. Best feedback so far was the 12 year old who asked if it was less serious to murder your wife than your mother, as a mother can't be replaced!

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  7. To add to my comment, Anon 2 Feb mentions making a school visit with an LA. This of course has nothing to with Magistrates in the Community, which is a Magistrates' Association initiative, and he/she should be asking bench MA reps to look into organising MIC visits.

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