On Friday May 15th we went on a Magistrate Court Visit.
We learned a magistrates' court is a lower level court (similar to our traffic courts) where all the criminal proceedings start. Also some civil matters are decided here, namely family proceedings. They have been trained to “swiftly” deliver justice. So the people arrested on Sunday will be in court on Monday. Honestly the one we sat in on was not “swift”! There are over 360 magistrates' courts in England and Wales.
Let me tell you a little bit of what we saw…
Entering the court house, quite similar to ours we had to go through security and walk up some stairs.
In the first session there was a gentleman accused of stealing 80 pounds worth of merchandise, with a record of about 90 other drug, alcohol and theft convictions they were determined to punish and attempt to rehabilitate. He had already been in prison for a week and was sentenced to four more weeks. From the day he was released he had six months to pay a fine and court costs totaling 280 pounds. This case was interesting in itself. But the next one is better.
The second session, a young female accused of public disorder plead guilty to 5 counts of assaulting 5 different police officers and also causing self-harm as she head butted the floor and cut open her forehead. Her defense claimed mental instability. With a criminal record of violence before the court ordered a doctor to take a look at her metal issues if any and then return to the court in five weeks to evaluate an appropriate sentence. I was specifically interested in this one because if this had happened in the United States she would have gotten at least 5 years per officer totaling 25 years in prison regardless of mental capability.
This case was interesting to me only because I was under the impression if you claim to have mental instabilities maybe she should have plead not guilty.. SO interesting!
I really enjoyed this visit, I probably could have stayed all day and I learned a whole lot!