In my time on the bench I think that there has been a distinct diminution of the respect that defendants show to the court. In the case of young men from the local underclass, it is undoubtedly so.
Jimmy stood slouched in the dock, and I had to tell him to take his hands out of his pockets. He was convicted some weeks ago of a mid-upper public order offence with racial overtones, so my colleagues had ordered reports, with a view to a high-level community order. He was given an appointment to attend Probation, and didn't turn up. We saw no more of him for more than a month, until he was arrested on the bench warrant that had been issued and brought before us. His body language suggested that he resented the inconvenience, and thought that we were wasting his time.
His young and keen barrister explained that he had not attended Probation because he had injured his ankle. "Does he use his foot to make a phone call, then?" enquired the slightly testy chairman. "Well, sir, his foot was very painful". "That's as may be" replied the chairman, who was beginning to have a sense of humour failure, "but what happened to him for the next four weeks?" Ms. Barrister did her best, but could smell which way the wind was blowing, although Jimmy looked as relaxed as ever in the dock, looking round to see if any of his mates had turned up. When we said that we would retire, the brief looked as if she had smelled a rat, but her client just sat smugly on his wooden bench. We called the clerk out and told him that we were sure that we would never get Jimmy in for a report on bail, so we were going to remand him in custody, ticking the box that says 'reports impracticable on bail'. When we went back and I announced our decision Jimmy looked a little puzzled, but he got the idea when the officers came in and indicated the way to the nasty steel staircase. I thought that he might kick off, but he decided to make do with a scowl and a bit of a kick at the door. Perhaps he will turn up for his bail in future. At least probation know where to find him this time.
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