Disorder In Court

Grace Eracleous remains unimpressed by London’s legal system.

Those in attendance at City of London Magistrates’ Court were clearly irritated. Their grumblings and mutterings reverberated round the bare walls of the open plan courtroom. Something had gone seriously wrong.

Silence in court! It didn’t need saying. At first sight of the district judge flanked by two stone faced clerks, everyone rose to their feet and the conversation sank to pin-drop levels.

This was the classic courtroom ritual, just as it’s meant to be – but it didn’t last long.

The eyes of the district judge scanned the room, looking to alight upon the defendant. Since of him there was no sign, the judge could only rebuke his solicitor.

‘Has our defendant not shown?’, the judge inquired, raising a disdainful eyebrow.

‘No Ma’am’, replied the defence brief, rummaging through papers if only to avoid the piercing gaze of a dissatisfied judge.

The judge’s clerks started to look through their papers relevant to the case. One handed the judge a copy of the letter sent out to the defendant.

‘Does our accused still occupy this address?’, inquired the judge.

More paper shuffling. ‘Erm, I’m not sure, Your Honour,’ mumbled the clerk.

‘So, our defendant has no legal obligation to be here today, if he did not receive the letter?’

‘No, Your Honour’, the clerk finally admitted.

‘We will send another letter to his new and updated address and adjourn the trial to another date.’

‘Yes, Ma’am.’

The clerk began to tap away on his tablet, relieved that the court had already moved on from this moment of acute embarrassment.

Only a clerical error – pehaps. But what chance justice when it’s too much even to send a summons to the right address?