Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spot on, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is said to have defined a cynic as a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. He was way ahead of his time.

Recently we dealt with a complex case involving a man with serious mental health issues. He stood in the dock, superficially scary on account of his size and his dress. His solicitor had moved heaven and earth to avoid a remand to prison and had to hand various doctors' opinions, all of them constructive. Pause. The Clerk told us that we could not make the suggested eminently sensible order because we had to have the Consultant's opinions in writing. We stood the case back in the list while a fax was organised. Then we stalled because the defence solicitor needed a copy of a single A4 sheet and the court would not copy it unless they received a fee of £5, that the lawyer could not recover from legal aid. He appealed to court staff, but received a blank response because they have all been warned about wasting public money. So the bench went out while a Ways and Means Act solution was found, as it indeed was.
What the hell are we doing here? To keep this defendant in mental health-compliant accommodation costs a lot of money; certainly many hundreds of pounds a day. Because HMCS, under orders, won't even do a simple photocopy, the public purse could face a bill of many thousands. It would be pathetic if it were not so infuriating.

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