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Visits to mags' courts today. Just arrived at Stratford to be told that tho court is technically open there is no public access. Asked to see the security guard's manager & was told the same story. No access. They said they only had one court running & there was no list available
Having travelled across London to Stratford mags not best pleased. Mags court lists not available to public & no digital public gallery so no alternative to turning up #openjustice #onlinecourts
New court. Admitted no problem. 1st case. Interpreter in police custody with defendant. Interpreter not fully in view...seems to be having to lean over def. Prosecutor has no access to online files. DA case trial set for 30th June (!). Bailed on charge of assault.
Another DA case ABH. Guilty plea. Witness suggests long term abusive relationship. Punched a number of times 7th June. Accused "thinks it is normal to hit me,he makes me think it is my fault". Pros has photos of injuries but no-one else can see/have access to them inc defence
Defence challenges level of charge. Dispute over what is on record re previous battery. Defendant says he has been abused by partner in past & has evidence. Nb judge has not told defendant on video who is in the court inc people in public gallery.
Prosecutor opposing bail, advocating remand pending sentence. Judge overrules pros oddly without hearing defence case.
Next case lawyer appears remotely from mobile phone. Hardly visible from public gallery. Not told who's in court. Nor is defendant. Accused of breaching tag/curfew arrested at home detained in custody. Breach was having cigarette on front step. Defendant is black #pandemicjustice
Next case. Remote lawyer says can't hear court well. Tinny sound. Next defendant accused of stealing mobile phone from open lorry. Pleads guilty. Defence lawyer sound breaking up. Defendant lives in hostel-sanction is compensation order. No reference to time spent #policecustody
Ushers in courts like this have become redundant. Police custody staff replacing them since nearly all defendants now on video. Sound of defendant terrible & he complains re small size of screen. Breached criminal behaviour order not to beg, shouted at someone & assaulted another
CBO seems to tell defendant not to be anti-social for 5 years! Subject to suspended sentence order of 20 weeks. Defence knew nothing about this so needs to have private consultation with client. Defendant waves on video wanting to speak. Is told to wait.
Next case. Woman defendant in dock in person. Accused of arson & assault by beating. Threatened to petrol bomb house. Accused of setting fire to door of son's house. Given all clear by mental health team in custody but lawyer says def suffers paranoid schizophrenia. Defence says
Defendant understands charge. In custody threatened to kill herself. Doesn't want to go home due to fear of reprisals. Remanded in custody for three weeks. Defendant seems to have learning difficulties. Judge remands without hearing representations from both sides.
Next case defendant on video has head in hands. Lawyer on video too. 5th June accused assault by beating three siblings. Defendant very distressed. Lawyer lost from video screen, reappears but can't hear the court. Classic example of case which would be better done all in court.
Tech difficulties continue. In the end lawyer has to communicate with court by phone. More charges of assault of children put. Defendant seems to be crying but video makes it hard to tell. Bail opposed due to risk further offences. Def accused of hitting half-brother. Family DA
Defendant has ADHD, anxiety, depression. Defendant invited round by mother, though forbidden to go to that address. Now defendants definitely weeping. No-one in police custody suite to give him support. Sound from remote lawyer poor as he requests bail. Trial set on 31st July
Judge remands again without hearing full representations. Defendant in total distress. Judge justifies remand. Asks to mute distressed defendant. Such cases should not be dealt with on video.
Reflections in hearings today in Highbury Mags. Everyone trying their best but video unsatisfactory, as in previous visits. Went with a documentary maker who agreed tech is terrible. Again cases remanded by police some of which didn't seem urgent. And today some concerning remand
decisions. Prosecution & judge not using evidence particular to case & defendant, to justify decision. And representations from both sides not heard. Both colleague & I depressed to see male defendant with mental health problems sobbing in police custody "court room". Amazed that
assessment teams in custody had said he was fine to appear on video. It's disrespectful to the individuals & the court to hear such cases on video. & the judge was unable to communicate anything which seems humane as she ordered him to be remanded & muted his sobs #thelawisbroken
Given many professionals are in the courts, the cells are staffed, & use of custody seems to be "business as usual" think defendants are being short-changed by the makeshift policy custody laptop set-up. They should at least be given choice as to whether to come to court
And surprised that only one court working in Stratford & two in Highbury given big back-log. NB at least 2/3 of the defendants were BAME
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