Crooks’ lack of respect took me by surprise

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Work experience student Tim Marshall shares his thoughts on those who grace the courts...

WEDNESDAY saw me take my first steps inside a magistrates’ court.

Not as a defendant, I must stress, but as a member of the press, helping to catalogue the day’s proceedings for the Journal’s court pages.

The prominence of the royal crest, the austerity of the magistrates and the presence of paper shuffling lawyers were all elements of the court system that seemed instantly familiar to me.

Others, however, took me by surprise: perhaps I was naïve to have expected a sense of pride in personal appearance to have been evidenced by the defendants that day.

Surely, I thought, an appearance in front of the town magistrates must warrant at least a smart collar and shoes?

If a night club can refuse entry on these grounds, then a court must be well within its rights to demand a similar level of respect from those who step inside its doors?

I was wrong.

The courtroom was instead subjected to repeated displays of tawdry tracksuit/trainer combinations, with the odd baseball cap thrown in, too.

Whilst, it is evident that the defendants in question were at liberty to dress however they wished, I was genuinely shocked that very few had failed to present themselves in a manner that was befitting of their surroundings.

The general attitude of many of the accused, was as regrettable as their fashion sense.

More often than not, it is unfair to make generalisations about criminality. Indeed, there were a wide array of personal circumstances detailed in court on Wednesday.

One trend that did seem to emerge, however, was that the vast majority of the defendants tried that day, were repeat offenders who were claiming either job seekers’ allowance or benefits.

I believe that the UK welfare system is, at its heart, a truly great idea.

But when such a large section of the court’s business involves those who are claiming from it, then it surely raises some important questions about how it is administered, and its effectiveness in helping people to help themselves.

by Tim Marshall