Saturday, July 14, 2007

Back to Work

I did my first sitting for several weeks yesterday, and it was in at the deep end. Instead of a nice gentle trial, perhaps with a bit of law to ponder, it was straight back into the remand court, with about 50 people listed to appear before us, charged with more than 80 separate offences. I had a nicely balanced bench, with one colleague on her fourth sitting, and the other with about four years' experience, giving a good mix of experience (me) and up to date training (new colleague). There were 17 bodies in the cells when we started, and more arrived through the day as the custody sergeant in the police station cleared out his cells only to fill up ours. It was the usual mix of business, small time thefts, a bit of drink driving, and several domestic assaults, including one particularly nasty one. The police photographs of the victim's bruising were very nasty and indicative of a sustained battering. It was charged as ABH, and we had no hesitation in sending the man up to the Crown Court in custody. All three of us on the bench are parents, and it was particularly upsetting to be told that a young child had called the police to ask them to "come and stop daddy hitting mummy". Then there was a couple picked up with £150,000 worth of cocaine - they are probably looking at a sentence in double figures.
Unusually, we sentenced another man right at the top of our powers, which is two consecutive six-month sentences, with the plea discount reflected in the fact that we kept the case in the lower court. He has been a prolific thief for many years, had just been picked up for two more thefts, and he showed no surprise at all when we exercised our discretion to do without reports and put him straight inside.
We didn't get done until after 5.30, so the sight of a pint on the bar when I got into the pub was even more welcome than usual.

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