The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

From Bad to Erse

There are two large Irish families on my patch, let's call them the McCarthys and the O'Connors, who provide the court with a regular stream of business. Several times a week we will find one or other family represented on the list. They have some very strong genes, and there are notable similarities in the appearance of both families. They live scattered across the county, some in rented housing, some in caravans, and specialise in drinking and fighting along with driving untaxed/uninsured/unlicensed/disqualified/drunk in their battered fleet of cars and vans along with a bit of petty thieving or shoplifting for variety. There is bad blood between them which has been going on for so long that the origins of the feud are lost in the mists of time. This leads to the occasional mass brawl, often enlivened by the use of pickaxe handles, iron bars, and suchlike. Serious injuries are surprisingly rare for some reason that I cannot fathom.

Rows are not just confined to the traditional inter-family clashes though. A few months ago we had John Patrick O'Connor (almost every man of them is named after a saint or a pope) up for affray after a bit of a do at a local club that included bar stools being hurled about the room, and what must have been a gratifyingly large amount of broken glass. Police had been summoned but the first two officers on scene, aware of whom they were up against, prudently sat round the corner in their car until two or three vanloads of reinforcements had arrived.

In court John Patrick was heard to say "Sure it was nothing, ,it was just a traveller wedding, that's all" - presumably the punch-up is an old nuptial tradition in the family.

I was dealing with a younger member of the McCarthy clan on one occasion while his old Grandma sat at the back of the court, fingers busy with her rosary. When we settled for a community penalty rather than custody, she loudly blessed us all as she left the court. There are plenty of up-and -coming youngsters too, who promise to provide work for my colleagues long after I have retired.

These two families are regular nuisances, in contrast to another lot who include some truly nasty characters, and who used to be known to the Met as the Crazy Gang. Some of them specialised in serious mayhem, up to and including a manslaughter using a sawn-off 12-bore. The jury acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter in a verdict that raised a few eyebrows at the time. The killer's son is now in his teens, and is already no stranger to the Youth Court. He is the third generation to be a regular customer of the court, and he has continued the family tradition of eschewing the education system and remaining illiterate. He can add up though, as one of his uncles once said to me with a grin when apologising for his inability to read the oath from the card.