Saturday, April 05, 2008

Memory Lane

I miss traffic cases.
When I was the new kid, Court Four was, for four days a week, the Traffic Court, and anyone who was insignificant, or had upset the Day Chairman, or was a bit too gobby for someone with fewer than thirty years' experience, was allocated to sit there. I often fitted all of those criteria, so off to Four I would go. Since I was junior, as well as male, I would go in last and close the door behind me. Hence, it was five years or so before I ever sat on the Chairman's right in Court Four.
The Traffic list often ran to about 150 cases, of whom a dozen or so would turn up, the rest choosing to plead guilty by letter, or just to ignore the summons in the hope that it would go away. So we sentenced on the guidelines (that were pretty skimpy in those days) and that was that.
A few cases stood out and alleviated the tedium, most of them Not Guilty pleas, where the ordinary decent Mr. Average, who has never been in a court in his life, tries to clear his name over a bit of disputed driving. It can be quite upsetting to see a man in his fifties break down and cry at being convicted of having no insurance (caused by a cock-up on his wife's part, but it's a strict liability offence) even though we cut the fine right down to £50 - we were obliged to give him six points.
Nowadays, in the new shiny efficient, simple, speedy, summary, community-aware, inclusive HM Courts' Service (London Branch) traffic work has been concentrated into 'gateway' courts of which mine is not one. The poor sods who sit on these sometimes face hundreds of rubber-stamp cases, so I am happy for them to do it, but it cannot be an improvement if JPs don't get a share of all kinds of work. We know our local roads, and local problems. Where's the justice in a crash in Ealing resulting in a case before Hendon court?
I'm getting old and grumpy aren't I?

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