Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Roughly Justice

"A lamentable picture of historic failure," is how Justice Secretary Jack Straw describes the unbelievable state of affairs at Leeds Magistrates' Court. According to the Sun, staff at the Court were so bad at record keeping that they had to "guess" at the outcome of some cases because nobody knew what had really happened.

Cases involving 2,206 defendants were not recorded, making a complete mockery of justice in the area - doubtless some guilty parties will have been recorded as being found innocent, and, worse, you can bet that some innocent parties will have been found guilty, too. In a further 555 cases involving drug dealers, alleged sex offenders and violent criminals, amongst others who failed to turn up at Court, warrants for their arrest were simply torn up.

If you read something like this in a fictitious account of events at a Court, you'd dismiss it as too far fetched. And yet it's been going on since 1980, by all accounts. Britain's civil Courts are infested with incompetent jobsworths who sometimes seem incapable of knowing their own name, let alone knowing what their job is or how to do it, although, with care and perseverance, it is usually possible to coax them into remembering. But one expects rather more of the criminal justice system, and it comes as something of a shock to find that mere admin staff have been making up the results of criminal hearings for decades.

Lamentable it certainly is, to say the least. Perhaps, rather than devising pathetic definitions of Britishness and the means of proclaiming it, the former Attorney General would better serve Britain and the British people of all backgrounds by ensuring that the Courts and Court Service were fit for purpose.

Billy Seggars.

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