Extraordinary day in court
These days it's not unusual for something to go wrong in court but in the past two-weeks I've witnessed two of the worst breakdowns of my career - if you don't include the prosecutor I made so angry in court he tried to punch me that is.
On the 8th December the court service computer broke down nationwide. I was in Thames Magistrates' Court at the time and witnessed cases being adjourned as no trial dates could be fixed - this meant that they were setting new dates with no idea as to how busy the court would be on the next occasion.
In a number of motoring cases, the court was unable to verify defendant's driving records due to the failure meaning that people who ought to be banned as they had totted up to 12 or more penalty points could potentially escape disqualification - I don't know if this did happen.
I heard from colleagues that courts all over the country were in chaos. An entire nation's criminal court system all but stopped working for most of a day due to the failure of one computer system but not a word of this farce have I read in the press despite a journalist being present in the court I was sat in.
Today was definitely the most bizarre farce I've ever witnessed in a court room. The prosecutor was running late due to an accident on her way in - these things happen. When she finally made it to court she found that her new CPS tablet wasn't working properly - this is a problem because all CPS papers are stored on computer these days. She was called into court by the chairman of the bench who demanded an explanation be giving in person. Said explanation that was duly given and an argument ensued between the prosecutor and the bench. I'm not sure exactly what started it but the chairman was treating the prosecutor like a disobedient schoolgirl, in return the prosecutor spoke to the bench like it was composed of rather simple-minded fools who refused to listen to reason.
Eventually, both bench and prosecutor left court. As she left the prosecutor declared that she would not assist the court and they'd have to find somebody else to prosecute the list.
Papers for all the cases and a working computer were delivered to court. The prosecutor came in long enough to confirm to the clerk that she was no longer willing to prosecute and another prosecutor would be required.
This stand-off continued for over an hour after the papers were delivered to court with the prosecutor in her room refusing to budge. Eventually, the court's legal advisor intervened and persuaded the prosecutor to do her job and we managed to get proceedings under-way at 11.50am - a mere 1 hour 50 minutes after the court should have heard the first case!
By that time one young woman defendant had missed her grandfather's funeral and even the investigators who brought the case against her were complaining that the delay was an "inhuman" way to treat people.
The more I attend court the more it's like appearing in a Carry On film.