There have been one or two comments over the last three years that too much of this blog is devoted to complaining about all the ingredients that go to make the cake known as our justice system. My reply is that there is more to complain about than to praise. But today is just a little different.
A few weeks ago in the traffic court we had a case of driving without due care. The accused was a 71 year old Spanish lady, resident in England, slightly deaf and of a feisty temperament who had, almost a year previously, allegedly knocked down another elderly woman on a zebra crossing. In addition to the complainant prosecution relied upon a single independent witness whose language was Swahili. Unusually the trial began promptly at 10.10a.m. and both interpreters, supplied of course by Applied Language Solutions, the much maligned here and elsewhere, monopoly supplier to HMCTS, were ready willing and as we discovered, very able. A question in English is asked of the Swahili speaking witness. It is translated by both interpreters simultaneously; to the witness in his language and of course in Spanish to the defendant. The witness`s reply is translated into English for the court whilst it is also being translated into Spanish for the defendant. This verbal tennis was conducted in as efficient a manner as was imaginable and was a tribute to the skills of those employed for the function who were visibly delighted to be told as much by the chairman. The fact that the accused was driving with only two half hour rest periods from Madrid direct to her English home when the accident occurred did not stand in her favour notwithstanding the totally credible evidence of the witness and the fairy tale concocted by the senora. We found her guilty and her resultant penalty points made her a totter. We ordered that she re-sit her driving test. When she baulked at the £1,300 compensation and costs she revealed that she still possessed the nearly new Mercedes C series which now she intended to give to her daughter. She was given 28 days to pay the outstanding amount. As she left the courtroom it was apparent that she did not require the interpreter to shout at the bench in old fashioned Anglo Saxon English.
As if that wasn`t enough for one day the afternoon demonstrated that however much assistance is given to a non represented defendant there are occasions when desperation to avoid becoming a totter leads otherwise intelligent people to bang their heads against the law`s brick wall.
The charge was driving with no insurance and the young man had had the insurance certificate upon which he relied rejected twice previously by the CPS which had taken all the advice possible from police. On this the third listing and his second appearance it was explained almost word by word why the certificate had been rejected and it was spelt out just what the difference was in costs between a late guilty plea which in the event CPS interjected would be considered as an early guilty plea in the particular circumstances and costs after being convicted at trial……£85 - v - £625. No! He wanted the trial to go ahead with his single witness, his employer, present to appear. We found him guilty. He declared income of £200 per week for full time employment. He was advised to think again and his statement of means form handed back to him. It was returned with an amended figure of £370. His financial penalty totalled over £1,000 with his 6 points not unexpectedly making him a totter. He knew what was coming. He was disqualified from driving for six months. We managed to pry only £20 from him immediately and the same sum promised weekly to avoid the bailiffs. We allowed him to keep £10 in his pocket to get the bus home. He had driven to court! The police officer in the case after giving his evidence had listened to the proceedings from the open public gallery. As the offender left the courtroom mouthing abuse he was told that forms for appeal to the crown court were available from the office; he had 21 days to file his appeal and that costs of several more hundreds of pounds were likely if his certificate were again rejected. With the court empty the police officer told us he had noticed the defendant`s car in the car park`s disabled bay area with a blue badge on the windscreen!!!!!!
Prior to amalgamation we had no traffic courts. All bulk traffic matters had been held at a dedicated court some distance away. They certainly bring a bring a new and sometimes entertaining interest to those of us previously ignorant of the mobile form of criminality.