Monday, November 28, 2005

And Another Thing

Speaking of fines, I'm reminded of an occasion when we were doing yet another means enquiry on an unprepossessing young man who owed the court £900 from 12 months back, had not paid a single penny, and was running us ragged. He knew the system and was playing it for all it was worth. My colleagues had already imposed a suspended committal on him, and despite this his wallet had remained tightly closed, at least as far as the court was concerned.

We had had enough, so we called the clerk out to tell her that we were going to send our man inside. She checked the right number of days, and rang down to the cells for an escort to take him down.

We went back in. I fixed him with a hard stare and said: "Mr. Smith, you have been given every opportunity to pay all or part of this fine and for a year you have completely failed to do so. We commit you to prison for 28 days." He stood unmoved, waiting for me to announce that the sentence was suspended. I didn't. He was galvanised when the dock officers came through the door and advanced on him. "This is a fucking kangaroo court. You bastard. I'll have that money here today." The rest of his remarks were muffled as the door to the cells shut behind him.

As I was leaving for the day much later one of the cell officers approached me and said: "You know that man you sent down for a fine sir; well his brother turned up just after three o'clock to get him out, but he had brought a cheque. We don't take cheques, as you know, so we told him it had to be cash or bank draft. He came back about ten mimutes ago, but the van has already gone. I don't think he'll get to the Scrubs in 35 minutes, do you?".

So our man was released the following morning when his family trekked to the Scrubs to buy him out. He was given a bit of credit on the fine for his night in prison, but every time I think about him it brings a smile to my face. He breached Rule 3b - don't take the piss.

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