Besides finding that writing this blog is as good a therapy to ride the highs and lows of urban life as any to be found at the pharmacy or the psychiatrist’s couch the reality of the daily functioning of a magistrates` court just cannot be found in any statistics, reports or comments from the heads of the agencies involved. Only those regular participants, J.P.s or lawyers, can show what life is really like in the courtroom. Perhaps that is why there has been pressure on those J.P.s involved to immediately cease such writing and erase any previous posts or comments which might, according to some of the legal establishment, have a tendency to undermine the judiciary or call into question the impartiality of those on the bench. A blog such as this meagre attempt would be of little interest or use if all it offered were almost unlimited praise if such praise were appropriate. It is indeed palpable that praise for the functioning of agencies contributing to courts is rare for the simple reason that it is rarely deserved. When such events have occurred I have not ignored them. Would that it were more often.
A single sitting in a remand court earlier this year ago is illustrative. There were about fifteen cases to be dealt with. Of these the C.P.S. prosecutor was missing two files and our legal advisor another two. One defendant who had been remanded in custody the previous day in order to be seen by the duty psychiatrist was not fit to be brought into court. She had stripped naked in her cell and was being very disruptive. However the bench was more concerned that, since the amalgamation, our courts in buildings separated by a few miles are still functioning as two separate entities A magistrates` court and B magistrates` court. Either building can involve either court depending on whether remands or trials are held. This particular day at the B court was not the appropriate day for the defendant who had been listed by the A court to be seen by a psychiatrist. The A court psychiatrist is present at the A court on another day only and since the B court psychiatrist had not been forewarned she was not available. This disturbed defendant had to be remanded for a further few days to be seen at the other building by the appropriate psychiatrist on the appropriate day. It does sound complicated. Apparently the legal advisor on the previous day who had adjourned to the wrong court at the wrong time found it complicated also. Our L/A told us he could not make out his colleague`s writing to identify him/her but would report the situation upwards. A pre sentence report on a prolific offender [theft] who was an alcoholic offered a twelve month supervision order and nothing else. The bench used its judgement to sentence although in the current climate of sentence by box ticking that might not be an option in a few years. An offender who had pleaded guilty to criminal damage denied he was on license. Nobody but nobody had information on his status….L/A, CPS nor his representative. Outcome is unknown as he was put over to the next sitting. Now for the praise; two interpreters turned up promptly.