Saturday, January 14, 2006

Familiar Faces

In the week I had to go to a Magistrates Court that I had not been to for about a year. In a previous job with another firm of solicitors I used to attend at this Court about once a week. If you go to the same Court on a regular basis you tend to get to know the staff and people working in and for the Court.

As I parked my car in the car park I noticed a personalised number plate of a solicitor who I know of, he had changed his car since I had last seen the number plate and had clearly done well for himself since I had last seen him. I then remembered who this solicitor was and recalled that his Court demeanor consisted of simply shouting in a gruff voice demanding to get what he wanted.

I got in to Court and after seeing my Client in the cells I went to find the usher for the Court I had to appear in. The usher was a gentleman who I had met before but I had never really understood his system of calling cases on. My previous experience with him was whatever you told him he would do the opposite. For example if I were to tell him that my case was ready to be put on he would leave me until the end of the list, if I told him I was not ready he would out my case on straight away!

I then bumped in to the Crown Prosecution Service Prosecutor. This gentleman has always been very pleasant but there have been rumours in the past about this particular prosecutor that he has an alcohol problem. Now I am not one to gossip and quite frankly I think that the rumours were just an excuse to explain why he never paid attention in Court, why he always went out for a glass of water whenever the Court rose, and why his hands would shake at any given time during the day. My one outstanding memory of this Prosecutor was that once I dealt with a contested breach of bail case with him and after my Client gave evidence denying the breach the Prosecutor stated that he did not want to cross examine my Client. The District Judge in Court asked the Prosecutor twice if he was sure that he did not want to cross examine my Client and then stated that my Client was free to go because the Prosecutor did not cross examine my Client the Court was duty bound to accept my Client's evidence denying the breach.

After getting the papers from the Prosecutor and seeing my Client again I sat in Court and told the usher that I might be ready to go on in Court in the vague hope that he might think that I was not ready. I then saw a typical display by the solicitor I mentioned earlier. His case was called on and as he waited for his Client to be brought up from the cells he stood up in his gruff voice and said, "May it please you your worships, I represent this defendant." Now this solicitor appears in this Court virtually every weekday, he probably appears before the same lay Magistrates regularly, and before his case was called on the usher said, "The next case will be Mr. Bloggs represented by Mr. Solicitor". You would think that this solicitor would develop a more friendly or more familiar introduction, such as, "Good morning your worships," afterall, they already know who he is.

The solicitor then dealt with the case which was a breach of bail. At the end of his submissions that his Client had been a bit foolish not abiding by his curfew but should be released on the same bail conditions as before the Chairwoman of the Magistrates said, "Bail is refused because we fear he will commit further offences and he has breached a conditional discharge by breaching his bail." This is entirely wrong as breaching bail is not an offence, you cannot be sentenced for it, you can only have your bail revoked if you breach your bail conditions. The solicitor stood up and in his 'gruff' fashion he started talking in a rather rude manner to the Magistrates by pointing at them in an accusatory fashion (is there such a word as accusatory?) telling them they did not know what the law was in relation to breach of bail and conditional discharges.

I always act in a polite way to whomever I encounter. I was also dealing with a breach of bail case that day. After employing my pleasant demeanor I managed to convince the Court that my Client had made a silly mistake and he was released from Court on the same bail conditions as before. I was expecting a remand in custody having observed the 'gruff' solicitor, and the way the Magistrates reacted in the previous case.

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