Tuesday, October 12, 2010


In the retiring room, or the bench meeting, or the Legal Aid solicitors' meeting,or the court staff meeting, or the Probation staff meeting, or the Justices' Clerks' meeting, or the (contracted-out) minimum-wage security staff meeting, or the tea-room meetings of the thousands of people who work in and around the courts, the usual cheerful gossip has given way to an awkward silence. The proposed changes, cuts, what-you-will, are bruited to be of an entirely new order, far surpassing anything we have previously experienced. Nothing is sacred, nothing is too important to be unceremoniously dumped.
That the axe will fall is a given. Where it will fall is unknown, except to those on the inside.
Jobs will go of course. That is a blow to a part-time clerk whose spouse has a decent job, but a catastrophe to the poor sod manning the front desk who relies on his couple of hundred quid a week minimum wage to support his family. Courts will close. Tea ladies will have to look for something else to do. Bewildered semi-literate and not even half-educated people charged with an offence will have to hack their way through the undergrowth of the law without professional help. High Street solicitors who have slogged away for years at the down-and-dirty end of the law, earning a fraction of the money that their glossy colleagues make, will face the closure of their firms. Small niceties and common decencies will be swept aside by otherwise nice people, who murmur "there's no money, you see" as they ease people out of the door and turn the key with a sigh that is more relief than regret.
I haven't the heart to post too much day-to-day court stuff, because the landscape may be so very different in the not so distant future, that what I write may just look absurd - a bit like being the amusing entertainer on RMS Titanic.
As one of nature's optimists, I am sure things will sort themselves out, and a different but still worthwhile justice system will emerge.
But it's pretty scary right now.

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