I had a call from the admin this morning to ask if I could chair a court tomorrow. I agreed, having nothing much planned, so tomorrow the scruffy clothes and the trainers will be left in the cupboard while I take out my (getting rather tired) second-best court suit.
I have no idea what I shall be given to do. I can be pretty sure that it won't be traffic, since nearly all of that stuff has been hived off to a 'gateway' court some miles round the North Circular. If it's a trial it is likely to be domestic violence, but it might be non-CPS stuff from the council, or the environment people or even (heaven forfend) the bus operators or the TV Licence bods. But you never know - a Proceeds of Crime Act forfeiture can be interesting as can any of the thousands of possible offences we have to deal with.
Some of my colleagues get a bit snotty about District Judges (we have one allocated DJ who is often away on things like prison adjudications, training, or, as this week, a short-notice holiday). There is a suspicion on the lay bench that DJs cherry-pick cases leaving the serfs to deal with the dross. I don't think that's quite fair, because a (say) four-day case is much simpler to manage in front of a DJ, obviating the problems of getting three justices together when they all have lives and families to concern them away from court.
In any event, it isn't just the high-profile cases that are interesting. Sure, a delicate point of law can enthral those of us who are interested, but the really dramatic riveting interplay of raw human emotion is just as likely to be seen in a something-and-nothing neighbour dispute or a low-level assault as it is in a newsworthy case that is on its way to the Old Bailey.
I shall know my fate by 9.40 tomorrow morning. Ideally, I would like a nice little trial that is ready to go at 10, has a juicy 'no case to answer' submission at about 12, with a bit of law tossed in (ideally by a blonde lady barrister of about 30-something - think Patricia Hodge in Rumpole) a verdict at 3.45, and if we convict, a nice neat little sentence without reports (more from Ms. Hodge) then a debrief and in the car by 4.30. In the pub by 5, home for dinner about 6.30.
Well, I can dream, can't I?
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