Thursday, September 05, 2013

A Busy Day - Eventually

Before getting down to our list today we were forced to hang about drinking coffee and grumbling while our courtroom was taken over to do the case management on a forthcoming tricky and sensitive trial. We finally got going at about 11.15, and from then on we were kept busy. We did a few 'allocation' exercises, deciding on the appropriate level of court that would handle cases, and then we dealt with numerous sentences, assisted (most of the time) by pre-sentence reports from Probation. Heroin, the curse of the underclass, featured strongly and I was reminded yet again of the unmistakable signs of the drug's abuse. Hunched shoulders, pinched and pallid features, hollow eyes, and a hunted expression were present as they so often are. One woman, 33 according to our list, but looking more like 53, was obviously 'clucking' having been away from her chemical comfort for half a day or more. The kindest thing to do was to get her remanded as soon as possible, and away to the meagre comfort offered by Holloway's medical wing.
Wife beater followed shoplifter followed drug dealer (over half a kilo of skunk in the wardrobe, three thousand quid in the bedroom, but it wasn't his - he was looking after the stuff for a friend whom he owed a favour. We decided to let a jury sort that one out.
We mostly stayed within the guidelines, but used our power to go outside them (which is all right so long as we give our reasons in open court).  We were done by 4.30, had a quick debrief with the clerk, and were on our way.

I wasn't sorry to get away as I am going away for a couple of weeks tomorrow. I shall take my iPad to stay in touch, but the Breton cottage we have rented doesn't have wi-fi. I told this to my son, who said: "What! Are they Amish?"

Back in a couple of weeks.


  1. I was going to make a lame joke about "Amish? No, Huguenots" until I discovered that the remnants of that much abused sect in France are mainly in the South.

    Well, you-go-not using WiFi anyway.

  2. Excuse my Asperger's picky nature, but there are three opening parentheses and only two closing in the text.

  3. Heroin being "the curse of the underclass" is the kind of value-laden comment that made the higher-ups so nervous of this blog. How is that consistent with the judicial oath? Were all these people pleading guilty? If not, how could they expect to get a fair trial from someone who assumes the presence of "unmistakeable signs"?

    Why isn't this blog highlighting the more pressing problems of what the politicians and their drivers are doing to undermine the institution of the magistracy?

    1. Whether you sit on Bystander's side of the bench, or whether you perch on the public gallery side, there are some observable facts. Most drug users live out an impoverished and unsustainable life at the mercy of their dreadful habit. Employment is virtually impossible, reputations are usually in tatters and future prospects are low. Rare is the sight of a well-to-do, fine, upstanding middle class heroin user in our court system. The huge majority plead guilty - they know they are horribly addicted and they usually, although sometimes fearfully, accept that the Drug Treatment Programmes are their best hope of containing and managing their current addiction. I don't feel any of this is "value-laden" but it is certainly "experience-laden". Just my view - without fear or favour...

    2. Erm.. so you think heroin is the cure of the underclass ???

    3. what an odd statement...

  4. Perhaps during your rest, one of your group will give thought to the request by the MA for suggestions as to what magistrates might spend their time doing outside the judicial structure. If not that, then what are the implications of the recent statements made by Mr Grayling.

    I have often pondered on why such an apparently influential blog as yours has failed to address the dismantling of the magistracy, while so many voices are raised in support of our jury system.

  5. Do all the Bystanders go on holiday together ?


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