Monday, December 14, 2015


I shall chair a court tomorrow, in response to the entreaties of our charming and hard working Bench Support Team. I have no idea what cases to expect, but I can be pretty sure of the following:-

08:45 Leave home
09:25 (with luck) arrive at court
09:30  Look to see which court I am in, and with which colleagues.
09:32  Obtain coffee, commence retiring-room gossip.
09:45: See our legal advisor, and either get briefing on the day's business, or settle for winging it if it's all routine)
09;50 Brief colleagues (if we don't already know one another). Settle ground rules for when and if to retire. If we have a new colleague reassure him or her that their views will be fully taken into account, and not to be worried about challenging or disagreeing with the old codger in the middle seat.
10:00  Go into court. Fix all present with a glare, and address a firm "good morning" to the clock at the back of the room.

Now the possibilities diverge: an administrative foul-up (CPS no papers, defendant or lawyer not present, custody cases not yet arrived from prisons, and/or not had time to speak to lawyers. If likely delay exceeds 5 minutes, make plans for coffee and (if Mandy the clerk hasn't got there first) biscuits.

Sometimes we are ready to go at ten sharp, but that is not too usual.

From now on, anything can happen. What do we do when sitting out the back?

Drink coffee and grumble of course.


  1. A familiar story!

    1. Likewise, but what's a Bench Support Group? Maybe what we used to call Listings, but now call the Case Management Unit? We also spell our Legal Advisers with an 'e'.

    2. Our Bench Support Team consists of four ladies who arrange our rotas and training as well as dealing with our expenses.
      They are good as well as friendly.

  2. When I first became a magistrate I was extraordinarily impressed with the quality of the grumbling to be heard in the retiring room. Fluent, creative, wide-ranging, heartfelt and, above all, totally sincere. I thought this was just natural talent and struggled for years not to show myself up in the company of such virtuosi. Imagine my pleasure then, when it turned out that the continuation training devoted a whole session to the Higher Grumbling. At last I can hold my own in the company of my peers, fulminating happily on how the biscuits used to be better in the years before I joined the bench and how the warm sun always lit your way back to the car after a fulfilling and delay-free sitting.#

  3. CPS no papers? Surely you will have noted the response by the DPP to the parliamentary committee the othe day. There are no problems at all now. Surely you believe her!


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