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Hooray. Have accessed a magistrates' court remotely to observe. 1st time. Will reveal name later. All except magistrates & legal adviser appearing remotely. Sound from court poor, v. distant. Not sure defendant would be able to hear. He's unrepresented yet accused domestic abuse
Unrepresented man doesn't know own postcode (to receive disclosure by post). Proposing to defend himself. Next case also unrepresented. Says just wants to get it over & done with. It's possession bladed article so glad he has agreed to consult duty. But why not persuaded before?
Next case in another court. Breach of curfew. Real confusion as to whether had had tag fitted or not. Though tag was supposed to have been fitted, seems not. Released on bail, same conditions. Not clear there was a point to police remanding.
Next defendant in custody "court" is a young woman. Waiting for defence advocate to connect but problems. Judge says "we are reliant on technology & there are some gremlins in the system today". Defendant is not introduced to all those in court & on video so asks staff in custody
Accusation of street robberies & burglary. Real problem with sound feedback, but not clear from where. Accused of committing offences while on bail so bail opposed by prosecution. Appears to be addicted to heroin & cocaine. No previous convictions. 28 years old. DJ remands her
Custody time limit is 128 days. I wonder when her trial will be? Court having technical issues. Tech manager says may disconnect & reconnect - the tradition "turn off & on solution".
Next case very complicated since there has been an NRM referral (defendant may have been trafficked). Alleged breach of curfew. Prosecution clearly has not had time to properly read the papers for this case. Given "time out" to do so. CVP mornings definitely seem much slower
Next case, interpreter in court but defendant has been already been interviewed by police & by lawyer without. Accusation of drunk, disorderly & spitting (assault) at police officer. Pleading not guilty. No body worn video - not clear why not. Def has previous for same offence
Prosecution asks for bail with conditions, inc reporting to police station. Defendant is homeless but has always turned up to court. Judge gives unconditional bail. Now trying to reach lawyer who is on another case. In trad court, would be queue of cases which could be slotted in
Next woman defendant accused of breaching supervision order by not turning up to appointment with a probation officer. She'd been released from 12 week prison sentence, was living under an underpass, had no money to get to the probation office. She was arrested detained overnight
In last case police officer/staff seemed to be writing notes during the hearing - presumably to help defendant understand what happened. Really surprising that police resource spent on this. In court would be no need to have someone taking notes as lawyer & client would be there
Next case most absurd yet. Man arrested for breach of 6 week suspended sentence given out in December 2015. In 2016 he missed a few probation appointments. Warrant no bail for this issued. Def was arrested yesterday & detained in custody. No sanction available since SSO expired
Next defendant accused of racially aggravated public order offence - use of n word. Plus common assault, criminal damage. The defendant (homeless) is unrepresented. No explanation why. No interview about offence. Def starts accusing victim (ex-girlfriend) of attacking him.
Unrepresented defendant does not understand mitigation, even when asked to give background. Court opts to get pre-sentence report since offences "cross custody threshold". Probation doing PSRs on phone - wonder if they can pick up hidden mental health problems on phone?
Next case domestic abuse. Male def pleading guilty to attacking mother - pushing her once when drunk. Defence lawyer says had to have two consultations since first time, defendant was crying so much he could not talk. Victim will not give statement. Max sentence 51 week custody.
Long discussion as to whether def should be allowed to return home pending sentence. Prosecution is wary but defence says he is primary carer for his elderly mother, there is no-one else to care for her. Bench retiring to consider
Bench gives unconditional bail. Police officer has to take down probation officer's phone number. Defendant on edge of tears says he loves his mum. End of day. Still don't understand why in London (where few Covid) cases, the defendant is not being brought to court. Court custody
staff are funded & available. Defendants, particularly unrepresented and/or with English as 2nd language, struggle to participate remotely. Given lawyers are not with their clients, police officers & custody staff are having to play the role of lawyer/intermediary/court staff.
Police officers/staff do not have training to interpret court proceedings for often vulnerable defendants & as enforcers of the law its not appropriate. Looks like major police mission creep to me. Not their fault but if judge & others are in court, think defendants should too
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