Saturday, March 24, 2007

He May Be Right

This week I had to tell a young man that he was going inside on his first custodial sentence. The main offence was a nasty violent one, and there were further ones that made our decision inevitable.
He had arrived at court on bail, so he was in the open dock. In these cases we have a well-rehearsed routine - once the bench decides that it is to be custody we call the clerk out into the retiring room and run it past him or her to check that we have got the law right. A phone call is then made to the cells, asking for an escort to come up. The officers stand outside court until sentence is pronounced, at which point they are given a discreet signal from the clerk and they enter while the chairman is still speaking, but after the defendant has realised that he is going inside. Once the pronouncement is finished the officers discreetly slip a cuff onto one wrist, and take their man down the steel staircase.
This chap was a young man who had been given every possible non-custodial disposal and had failed them all. You name it, he's got it - drugs, drink, family problems, illiteracy, the lot. As he was taken down he called out "I'll get worse". He could have a point.

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