I sat idly in the waiting room of my local tyre dealers last week while a couple of new tyres were being fitted, and I was reminded that when I first joined the bench motoring courts were a daily feature in Court Four. Sometimes the offences were technical, such as bald tyres or other vehicle defects, sometimes bad driving was alleged, and sometimes there would be document offences such as no licence, no insurance, and no MoT. The only guidelines that we had were on four sides of pink A4 paper,, and dealt exclusively with motoring offences. Fewer than half of those summoned ever turned up, either taking the chance to plead guilty by post or simply ignoring the summons in the hope that it would go away. Cases were presented by a police officer and the postal pleas could develop a rubber-stamp feel to them, even though we were meticulous to see that everything was done properly.
The letters were usually left until the afternoon, and in those more relaxed days the chairman would sometimes put one of the wingers into the chair without prior warning, which gave newbies the chance to get the feel of making pronouncements in an environment where you couldn't do much damage.
I haven't heard a motoring list for about ten years, because such work as remains after fixed penalties and other out of court disposals such as vehicle defect notices and speed awareness courses, is dealt with in so-called Gateway courts. I spent a day sitting as a visitor in one of the earlier Gateways at Highbury Corner, and was alarmed to find a list of over 300 cases, with a queue stretching along the corridor and down the stairs. We managed to deal with the appearances by about 5.45 pm and then block adjourned everything else.
Musings and Snippets from a recently retired JP. I served for 31 years, mostly in west London. I was Chairman of my Bench for some years, and a member of the National Bench Chairmen's Forum All cases are based on real ones, but anonymised and composited. All opinions are those of one or more individuals. JPs swear to enforce the law of the land, whether or not they approve of it. Nothing on here constitutes legal advice.
Sunday, April 07, 2013
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My court is one of those Gateway courts and we can indeed have over 100 cases listed in each of the 3 motoring courts that sit a couple of times a week. The only thing I can say is that what with all of our other work diminishing (see earlier post!!) we often get help from the 'trial' courts to finish the lists!!ReplyDelete
Traffic offences are part and parcel of our normal court days here outside London, so you will find using a mobile phone between a GBH and rape. We do have specific traffic courts on Mondays, but there is far too much business for them, and inevitably the excess no insurances, no seat belts and bald tyres get listed into our remand and fast track days. Interested to hear that you might sit to 5.45pm - very much frowned upon here in the sticks, as some of our legal advisers are faced with 40-mile journeys home and 4.30pm tends to be the target, 5pm maximum.ReplyDelete
Although I have some sympathy with your legal advisers, most employers do not allow their staff to leave work early because they have a long journey home. Is there something we are missing here?Delete
By no means. After court the legal adviser has paperwork to do, as well as reviewing the business in case he or she needs to tell the boss anything. If that LA has been sent from High Wycombe to Milton Keynes they might face an hour a d a half journey - unpaid.Delete
Thank-you BT, it is indeed exactly that which happens. LAs started their careers based at one courthouse close to where they live, but over the past two years as courts have been closed and staff reduced they have been asked to travel further and further afield. A legal staff shortage at Milton Keynes can bring in an LA from anywhere in Thames Valley - Maidenhead, Reading or Oxford if necessary - and it would be unjust to ask them to pay for the extra travel out of their own time or pockets.Delete
There seems to be an element of injustice creeping into the system caused by continual adjournments. Emma West "tram lady" is due back in court tomorrow - for the 5th time! All her previous trials have been adjourned. The wear and tear on her nerves must be considerable.ReplyDelete
Adjournments are hard to get these days. Pleas must be taken at first hearing. If it is a 5TH listing there will be something to it...ReplyDelete
We had one on Monday that was shown as 29th listing. It was moved from my court to the DJ and I asked at lunchtime if that was a misprint. No it wasn't. The defendant had been in and out of hospital which explained some of it but as anyway he failed to turn up a warrant without bail was issued.ReplyDelete