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.

My Photo
Location: Near London, United Kingdom

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

Friday, June 16, 2006

Dramatis Personae (1)

Over the years I have found one of the most rewarding aspects of being on the bench to be the endless stream of fascinating characters who have passed before me, playing their respective roles as defendant, advocate, prosecutor, witness, legal adviser, and court staff.

Alan Samuels was a well-known local solicitor who specialised in defending criminals. The local paper carried his exploits every week, and years before I even thought of joining the bench I was struck by one of his cases that was reported in the local rag.

His lady client had been caught leaving Tesco's with a bottle of Scotch and a pound of rump steak concealed in her bags. Even Alan could see that she was bang to rights, but his mitigation was a masterpiece of its kind. "My client" said Alan, "is at a loss to understand what motivated her to take these goods, because she is, sir, both a vegetarian and a teetotaller". It was chutzpah, but chutzpah of a high order.

He rarely if ever pleaded guilty, and his often abrasive style in court was backed up by an encyclopaedic knowledge of the law. He would work up a possibly synthetic lather of indignation at some affront or other from the prosecutor, and in moments of stress, especially when his client's case was starting to look a bit wobbly, he might start hurling pencils down on to the table in front of him, while waxing indignant at his frequently-inexperienced learned friend. Alan's performance made it clear that the advocate concerned was, in his opinion, neither learned nor his friend.

In complete contrast, Geoffrey Willows was almost the personification of urbanity. Always immaculately suited, Geoffrey would glide around the courtroom as if on castors. An old fashioned gent, he often led me to speculate how he got on in interview with the surly and chippy members of the underclass who put bread on his table. Well, perhaps not too much bread, but certainly some decent claret.