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.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Dramatis Personae (2)

The best thing about working in the courts is of course the people. I tend to focus on the stream of defendants who pass through the courtroom, but there are just as many odd 'uns among the supporting cast of lawyers court staff and magistrates - such as:-

Desperate Prosecutor This lady arrives in court burdened with a two-foot-thick pile of files, few of which she has read. She is late, as usual, and as she tries to put her files into some sort of order, panic in her eyes, a steady stream of defence briefs arrive to talk to her about their cases. After going through the motions of grumbling, we retire to let her sort herself out. If we are lucky we will get started at a quarter to eleven.

Percy Pinstripe is a barrister, and doesn't he want us to know it. An immaculate chalk-striped suit sits on his elegant frame, his Mont Blanc pen is poised above his Counsel's Notebook, and he shows elaborate courtesy to the bench, drawled out in his public school tones.
He is only here because a local solicitor has a golfing date, and Percy is on a fee of £75. He pays his fares out of that.

No-Bail Norman has been a magistrate for 29 years and has been Bench Chairman in his time. He doesn't really approve of bail, and tends to write out his reasons for a remand in custody before so much as glancing at his wingers. Today's wingers are a lot less deferential than they were in his day, and he is frequently dragged outside by his recently trained colleagues so that they can explain the Bail Act to him.

Mr.Shabby the Solicitor has been coming in for 30 years, man and boy, and has seen it all. He is a decently educated middle-class man, and his manner, as he excuses the latest transgressions of his surly and attitudinally-challenged client betrays his distaste for the whole business. His suit was smart once, but time has taken its toll, although his shoes still gleam.

Cecilia the Usher resplendent in her gown and wielding her clipboard is one of the two or three people who actually know what is going on. She is polite and helpful to defendants, their relatives, lawyers, police and magistrates. So long, that is, as they don't give her a lot of attitude. If you want to see what a court looks like at 5.15 p.m., just try pissing off the usher. One or two of our ushers are ex-forces senior NCOs, and they are brilliant. They exude a natural authority, and are effective with distressed or with difficult court users, having a lifetime experience of when to be sympathetic and when to be firm. They are also a great help when a tired or careless chairman makes a mistake in procedure, covering up anything from mis-naming some one in court to, on one occasion involving me, warning me that my flies were undone just as I was about to have a chat with our (female) District Judge.

Downtrodden Girlfriend is often called Donna. She is 21 but looks 40, thanks to too many late nights, too many vodka shots, and three small children, two of them still in nappies. Her hair is scragged back in the Council House Facelift style, and her eyes need no mascara to be surrounded with dark circles. She sits numbly in the gallery behind the armoured glass, raising a smile and a wave as her paramour is brought up from the cells. She calls "Love You Babe" as he is taken back down, having been remanded in custody as a prelude to a stretch of a couple of years.

There are more. I shall come back to them when the mood calls.