Wednesday, October 14, 2009

All in a day's work

These are three people chosen at random from a busy day in court one. I hope this gives you some idea of what goes on in a courtroom on any given day.

The first one comes in with the Serco officers (can't call them "gaolers" these days). She's black, middle-aged, heavy-set, with braided hair. She peers through the thick glass, looking for her solicitor, who gives her a reassuring smile, before turning to face the bench. They both look presentable. She came from Ghana 12 years ago, on a boat. She is an illegal immigrant. She claimed to have borrowed a Belgian passport with a valid visa to get here.

She is totally illiterate. When she first arrived, she got hold of a fake NI card. It isn't that tough. She used it to get work cleaning. She's worked minimum wage cleaning jobs ever since, living in precarious housing -- friends' sofas, that type of thing. She has no bank account, and no income now she's been taken into custody.

She's been charged with fraud. She pleads guilty, and gets a £200 fine, or one day in custody, which she's served, of course. Immigration will deport her shortly, and her twelve year adventure in England is at an end. As she leaves with the gaolers (sorry), I wonder what will become of her when she gets home. I say "home", but I have no idea what awaits her -- she left Ghana because she had no family or friends whatsoever, and wanted a better life.

Number two is also with the gaolers (my own little rebellion). He is white, thin, and plainly an addict. A glance at his record confirms that -- knocking on for a hundred offences, and most conceivable drug treatment orders have been attempted. He had cocaine and opiates in his system when he was arrested. There was an administrative error in processing his benefits -- so he hadn't had any for four and a half weeks.

He's charged with attempted burglary. It's all on CCTV and he'd admitted trying to get in when he was interviewed. He'd seen some crisps in the shop window, and was hungry, which was why he'd tried to smash the door in. He was supposed to get a letter for a hospital appointment as part of his previous sentence. It never arrived. He got 28 days inside.

The third isn't in custody. He has a large tattoo on his face, further detail about which would identify him. He was seen brandishing a hatchet, stripped to the waist and covered in blood. He's charged with a public order offence. He said in interview that people attacked him, but he didn't see them, because they're "sneaky fuckers".

He then told probation he'd had eight cans, and that the alcohol "interfered with his epilepsy". The psychiatric team have given him the all clear. He attempted suicide two weeks ago. He has previously been an in-patient. He's stopped drinking, and wants to train as a tattoo artist.

The guidelines say three months, he gets 12 weeks suspended for a year.

All in a day's work.


  1. I'm due to do Court 1 on Friday. That's exactly the kind of customers that I shall see. Points up the limitations of the justice system doesn't it?

  2. Depressingly familiar, isn't it? Today's example -- a drug addict refused Subutex by a locum pharmacist started shouting he needed his prescription. "I'll be back, I'll get you".

    Section 4. Unbelievable. The charging lawyer must have been smoking crack. Immediate unlawful violence? I don't think so.