I dealt with someone in court last week for two assaults on police officers, and a section five Public Order Act matter. He was drunk, shouting and swearing at the police officers who turned up to deal with him. They were trying to do so sensibly, i.e. they didn't arrest him, and told him to go home. He was so abusive he was eventually arrested. He got to custody and "kicked off", and was rather forcibly restrained for his trouble.
He was charged with one assault PC for kicking an officer, and I added the second for spitting in the same officer's face. He was adamant he was not guilty, despite the custody CCTV being at court, for once.
The usually friendly probation officer came over, rather puzzled.
"The computer says he's on licence"
After that little incident, they're hot on that sort of thing. Being on licence is when you are released to serve a portion of your custodial sentence in the community. If you re-offend, probation should recall you to prison to finish your sentence inside, but they might not get round to it until you've murdered two French people.
"Oh, thanks for letting me know, I wasn't even given his pre-cons. What's he on licence for then?"
"It's for 360 months, so it must be murder".
Now, the police had arrested this man, fingerprinted him, and then bailed him to court. Goodness only knows why. Not their finest hour. He had been in and out of the dock all morning while I tried to figure out why he had been bailed by police, why he hadn't been recalled by probation, and where his bloody solicitor was.
The police liaison officer at court saved the day by finding an up-to-date set of previous convictions. It turned out that he wasn't on licence for murder at all. It was a life licence though, but just for an armed robbery. He still wasn't represented, and shuffled back into the dock. I rose.
"Sir, I now have the information I require, and this matter can be dealt with. While I'm addressing you and your colleagues, might the gaolers be called in?". They were. I asked for him to be remanded in custody pending his trial. He was. It wasn't a challenging application.
He was well-dressed, in blazer and overcoat, clean, smart, well-spoken, and polite to a fault throughout the proceedings. Think Reggie and Ronnie Kray. A gangster of the old-school. Respectful of authority, in his own bizarre, armed-robbing, drug-dealing way.
He thanked the bench when they told him to go downstairs, even knowing that he wouldn't be let out for a good few years. I had to remind myself that there was a damned good reason he got life, but I couldn't help thinking, "He won't be any trouble at all inside".
And I was right. He'd been saving himself for when they started day-releasing him. His first day out was when he attacked the police officers, his second was when he answered his bail at court. He told the prison he had a job interview.
Anyway, all that is why I was entirely unsurprised when this happened.
Although, if the open prisons were all like this...
... people might want to stay there. Is it just me, or is that actually a stately home, and not East Park Prison?