After visiting Highbury’s Magistrates Court on the 15th of November, I was able to get a better understanding of how the UK’s justice system works. The visit really opened up my eyes, showing the struggles that innocent people go through. As well as the abuse that the court has to deal with.
After an unsuccessful sit-in in Court Room 3, where none of the defendants showed up to their case, I decided to sit in Court Room 12, where I got to experience 4 cases.
The case that hit me the hardest was the 2nd case about a young man whose children failed to attend school often enough without any proper justification. He started explaining how he was in prison during the time that his kids weren’t going to school, he had been falsely imprisoned for 11 months for something that his brother had done. Thus, during this time, his ex-wife was taking care of the kids and should have been the one taking them to school. However, money was being taken from his account (almost 1000 pounds in total) from social services and still is being taken.
The magistrate said that “it sounds like you have a good case” and that we have “accepted your explanation”. Thus, the case was re-opened and the young man must return in December for his second trial to try and get his money back.
I found this an extremely emotional case as I could see the pain in the young man’s eyes. Currently struggling to support his children by himself. Needing the money that has been and is being taken from him. He was completely helpless, having done absolutely nothing wrong. This case showed me the hardship that some have to go through when they are completely innocent.
This same case showed a hint of an opposite perspective, showing the abuse that the court has to deal with. They are trying to do their job and help people get out of their sticky situations. When they were providing a mandatory warning the man got quite loud, speaking over them and using inappropriate language. Saying he didn’t need the warning as he hadn’t done anything. The court has rules which mean they have to read the statement out, whether they believe the person or not.
My general opinion on the Magistrates Court was that it was a lot less formal than I thought it would be. The members were getting up a lot to talk to one another or to drink water. It made me think that people don’t take the magistrates courts as seriously as they would the Crown Court. They seem to talk over the magistrates and not follow the rules.