Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of That

I spent two days in court last week; one was my regular rota sitting, and the other was a favour to a colleague who needed to be elsewhere on that day. He will return the favour when I need to drop a sitting.
We saw a nice variety of cases, and unlike in the remand court, which is a rapid-fire sausage machine where few cases are concluded, everything we did had a beginning, a middle and an end.
One trial was a domestic violence matter, and we were held rapt as the woman in the witness box spoke softly of the desperately banal and ordinary ways in which she and her man managed to irritate each other. The three of us felt almost uncomfortable at this intrusion into the couple's privacy. One of my colleagues passed a note across to say "this is really sad". We heard a lot of background to the incident, and the woman repeated that "he's a really good dad" and said that she had tried to withdraw her statement but had attended in answer to a witness summons. While the man was on bail their three small children had only been able to see their father under supervision, and they wanted him back. What our verdict was doesn't really matter. Our abiding feeling was one of wondering whether there wasn't a better way of dealing with this than using the flat-footed majesty of the criminal law.
Then after lunch we heard another case in which the core issue, in this case an alleged theft, was buried among the recriminations and jealousies of a disintegrating relationship between two male partners. Emotions ran high, and the two protagonists pointedly avoided eye contact. Sad, for the second time in a day.

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