It’s actually quite difficult to write about the cases I saw without giving away my thoughts about the offences that had been committed ( and they were all ( found ) guilty ). Now I see why journalists just factually report the court accounts and then leave it to the reader to have their opinions on the verdicts.
The first case featured a little guy, slight and nondescript of 35 years old, bearing an uncanny likeness to Ian Huntley, the man that killed the 2 little girls. We went in just as his crime was being read out. He’d engaged in sex chat online with a girl, that got more and more sexual and involved him having sent graphic video of himself ‘ self pleasuring ‘ At some point the girl had typed that she was just 14 years old, and that hadn’t stopped him at all from continuing the sexual conversation, and was followed by him requesting pictures of her. Then it was revealed that he had been ‘ caught in a honey trap’ by an adult posing as a child in order to catch paedophiles, at which point I wondered if it was actually a crime, as it wasn’t actually against a minor. Apparently though that doesn’t matter and he was still guilty.
Then his defence solicitor spoke, and said that it was a one off out of character offence, a ‘ moment of madness ‘ that he was a man of previous good character, had no criminal record ( and it seems that they do now list all previous convictions to the magistrates in the course of the hearing ), was a divorced father of 4 girls, all of whom came to stay with him at the weekends ( the eldest being also 14 ) that he lived now with his mother ( that could vouch for his character ), that his ex wife had had no suspicions at all, and was happy to accompany their girls to stay also when the 4 girls stayed with him and that he would observe a curfew of the court’s choice. His current job as an employed gardener meant that he was able to pay child maintenance of £2500 per month to his ex wife, and if he was to lose his job because of being convicted of this offence then he would no longer be able to pay maintenance for the upkeep of his kids.
It seems that paedophiles don’t get a second chance, and immediately face certain conviction that is beyond the sentencing power of a magistrate, so he would have to be tried in a Crown Court, but the magistrate could decide whether to release him on bail prior to his appearance in Crown Court. They deemed his ‘ first offence ‘ serious enough to NOT release him on bail, and not let him near his four girls until properly tried, after which presumably he could never legally spend unaccompanied time with them as long as they are minors. It illustrated the catastrophic consequences of his actions one night – he would lose his children, his livelihood, his reputation and his liberty, all gone for ‘ the thrill ‘ of time spent on his laptop. His kids would forever be shamed, his own safety in and out of jail as a ‘ nonce’ would for ever be endangered, and his banishment from Society would be everlasting. I wondered what was going through his mind as they led him away. Was it actually a one off? Is that believable? Does it make any difference, as the one off crime is so reprehensible anyway..
Another man was up and he was there for driving whilst banned. He was hard of hearing, yet only about 30. He was unemployed but didn’t look like he should have been, if you know what I mean. He spelt out his address using the NATO phonetic alphabet- you know, the one where A is Alpha and H is Hotel etc. I had a thought that perhaps his hearing had been messed up by a bomb blast, and that he was once a soldier, and perhaps was ‘ retired out’ after his hearing was ruined. There was total confusion ref dates and whether he knew he was banned, so kept driving. and many references to his ‘ mental health ‘problems meaning that he couldn’t turn up in court twice before today’s hearing. Any kind of sentence was deferred pending further investigations. He seemed plausible enough when explaining his driving error, but you have to bear in mind that he had already been banned for something else. For me, as someone who had an unexpected accident and then lost his ability to work in his profession, I felt this man’s pain ( though as I say, I don’t actually know his back story )
Then a woman of about 40 was in the dock. She had been caught stealing expensive perfume from a department store. She’d fought off the security guards and also assaulted an off duty policeman that had intervened. Another crime of wrapping 3 bottles of expensive champagne in foil and making off through the store theft detection system ( which hadn’t worked because the alarm went off anyway) was taken into account.
She looked a mess, this woman, and as I say at least 40. We then heard that she was 21 years old , and a crack addict. She was a druggy because she’d been brought from Poland years before and made to work as a prostitute. Her life was a mess. She couldn’t get a job and had few prospects of getting one, so stole to feed her addiction. The Mag didn’t sentence her but referred her to the probation services and wished her good luck. Rehabilitation was the objective rather than banging her up only for her to reoffend once out..
The next ( young Asian ) fella was in for driving without a license or insurance, for the second time in a year. He was given £350 fine and 6 points, making 12 in total, so was banned for 12 months too. He had 1 month to pay. This seemed lenient? If he didn’t actually have a license how can he be banned from driving, as he shouldn’t be anyway.. I guess it means he just can’t even start learning to drive ( officially ) for 12 months. I didn’t get the impression from his face that banning him was going to stop him if he felt like taking his mum’s car again… but what do I know.
Another man was so drunk he was asleep in the dock and mostly unable to answer any questions at all. His girlfriend was in the court too, and kept shouting to him to wake up. The Court staff seemed to find it fairly amusing to be honest. The accused said he ‘ couldn’t take responsibility for his own actions ‘ after being told to by the Mag. He had been convicted in court 43 times previously and didn’t appear likely to suddenly reform his behaviour. He was already contravening his parole conditions from his last offence, as he was supposed to observe a curfew and not leave his ‘ home address ‘ between 7 pm and 7 am any night, but as the couple had just been evicted for not paying rent they were now somewhere else. They were told to go to Ealing Court at 9am the next day to change the address on his previous conviction, and he just said to the Mag – no mate, no way I’m going Mate I haven’t got any bus money mate.And I’m not drunk, I’m just tired, I haven’t slept for 3 days mate! The Mag didn’t seem to have another plan so the man was likely to be arrested shortly. It was all a mess. The couple left the court with her shouting it was ‘ all disgustin’ ‘ You got the impression that there wasn’t a lot of hope for these 2 and wondered what the answer actually was. They were definitely a couple that you would cross the road to avoid having to walk past, I thought. ( For me, that’s actually often not possible if there is no dropped kerb at hand – often I have to go quite a long way in a direction that I don’t want to go, just to cross a road. Some parts of London, especially the really old bits, have massive kerb heights and no dropped sections at all… but I digress. )
Interesting day, but definitely not an amusing one like last time…