Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Phew! What A Scorcher!

As I sit gently sweltering at my keyboard the dial on my desk-top thermometer stands at 30 degrees C. A small fan keeps things just about bearable but I am moved to wonder how my colleagues who are sitting in court today are getting on. The courtrooms themselves are air-conditioned, although the system is erratic, but the public areas and the retiring rooms have no cooling. It occurs to me that I have never sat on the bench in shirtsleeves, although in exceptional weather one could do so, with the Chairman's permission. In the same way lawyers can be allowed to take off their jackets, but it happens rarely on my patch. There is a judge at the local Crown Court who sits wigless from June until early September, keeping his wig parked on the bench next to him, presumably in case the Lord Chief Justice comes to call unexpectedly. This can cause alarm among counsel who do not know his ways - I remember seeing a young barrister's hand shoot halfway towards his own wig, and then hover there as he enquired:- "Your Honour - if you will forgive me - are you in chambers?" "No" boomed His Honour. "I choose not to wear it in the summer months".

It must be pretty stifling down in the cells, and the prison transport vans are not known as sweat-boxes for nothing.

I suffer from mild paranoia every time that I park at court, fearing that I have forgotten the jacket of my suit. I never have forgotten it, but I would have to borrow one if I did because the uniform is expected by court users. Until a few years before I was appointed lady magistrates had to wear hats in court, and my first Bench Chairman always wore a black jacket, striped trousers and a flower in his lapel.

In the Youth Court several of my colleagues have been known to wear discreet Bart Simpson or Mickey Mouse ties, and nobody has ever seemed to mind.

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