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, October 31, 2006

This Could Be Any of Us

There is a man called Nick whom I know quite well, not as a bosom friend, but as a trusted acquaintance. He has got himself into a serious fix. I met him few weeks ago and I could see from his expression that all was not well.
After his divorce about fifteen years ago he applied himself to work hard. He was promoted, and got to a very decent salary level that was accompanied by some nice benefits, such as a 3-series BMW, and a pension scheme.
Some of his friends, including me, were a bit surprised when he turned up with a new girlfriend who seemed – how shall we say – not quite his type. Nevertheless, three years later he was living with her in the house that he had first shared with his ex, and then, having bought out her share, improved extensively. Two children arrived within three years, and all looked well. It was not.
The lady had problems that resulted in heavy drinking. They coped as a couple until the time that he came home from a twelve hour day to find her the worse for drink, and planning to go out for more as soon as he came home. There was a row. There was a physical incident that I won’t comment on, because I have only heard one side of the story. Desperate to calm the situation, he telephoned a friend and asked if she could speak to the lady to calm things down. Fuelled by drink and emotion, Nick’s partner screamed down the phone:- ”He’s hitting me!” Friend called the police.
Nick was arrested and taken to the police station. The arresting officer was sympathetic, and suggested that time would be saved if Nick left his personal property at home to save the trouble of booking it all in at the station. It was now around midnight. At the police station the officers were friendly, and eased Nick through the booking-in procedures, apologising for having to put him in a cell. The PCs left the door ajar to reduce the stress. They said that as soon as the 'paperwork' was sorted out they would run him home. The officers seemed so reasonable, and he was so anxious to get out of the police station that he said he was happy to do without a solicitor.
He was interviewed, and agreed to accept a caution for Common Assault. The arresting officer then said he was sorry, but the Sergeant had forbidden him to run Nick home, but that he was free to leave. Without his wallet Nick could not get a taxi, so he walked four miles home.
So far, so simple, if unpleasant. Unfortunately, while Nick was telling me about the situation I realised that he had dropped himself into a whole heap of trouble. The lady’s problems are unresolved, rows continue to occur, and Nick now evades any possible new allegations by leaving the house, going to neighbours, or, in extreme cases, dialling 999 if the lady kicks off. Nick is street-wise enough to prevent future rows getting to the police stage, or so I trust. But if he doesn’t, with his record, he will be in the frame as a suspect with a previous record of domestic violence.
Leave that aside, and move forward to the separation that I fear is inevitable. She will of course get the house and the children. He will have problems getting access because he has admitted being violent. You can work out the rest for yourself. He stands to lose everything he has worked for, the children he loves, and his good name. The killer fact underlying the way the law views him is that caution, and he agreed to it without professional advice.

Nick exists. I have taken his word for what happened, albeit filtered through my magisterial scepticism. I ask you to draw just two lessons from this sorry tale:-

However solid your social position, consider how you would cope with being accused of a crime.

Never refuse legal representation, however tired drunk or fed-up you are. It can do no harm, and may prevent you throwing away much that is dear to you.