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.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Three Into One Will Go - I Hope

In common with many other benches, the one on which I have sat for quite a few years has merged with two of its neighbours, and we have just dealt with our first two days' business. Many people felt a bit odd about the changes, some sitting with colleagues they have never met before, some sitting in a courthouse new to them, or with an unfamiliar legal adviser. Minor (and not so minor) differences in procedure have always existed between benches, so we have all started on a learning process, rather as we did when moving to a new school all those years ago. Things were pretty quiet yesterday, but there was a bit more to do today. I sat on two trials, neither blessed with fluent or speedy advocacy, and the first one needed an interpreter, something that always slows things down.
The Eastern European chap who needed the interpreter put up a pretty hopeless defence, and I watched the face of his solicitor lose its smile, add a frown, then fall into weary resignation as his client dropped himself in it, bit by bit. He ventured, without any prompting, to tell us that he had a previous conviction for something similar to today's offence. Bravely making the best of a bad job, the brief asked him "You very candidly (read 'stupidly') told the court that you were convicted of a similar offence some time ago. Did that have the effect of teaching you never to do it again?" A muttered remark to the interpreter, and a bright 'yes' from her. Hmmm. Guilty it was, not because of his admitting his previous, but because his story kept on changing, or petering out into 'I don't remember'.
We didn't get that one done until about 3.30, and we wouldn't normally want to start another two hour trial at that time, but we are now going to be so short of courtroom time following the merger (in which we have lost 30 courtroom days a week) that we decided to plough on with the other case. We finished on the dot of 6 pm, leaving us to fight our way home through the traffic.