Images above: Wimbledon Magistrates Court; Ann Crighton
Let’s hope someone at the Ministry of Justice was watching the TV at 8.30 last night, with the rest of the country. While major criminal trials have been cancelled, minor traffic offences were still being prosecuted last week. Twice Ann Crighton, Direct Access barrister and foudner of Crighton Chambers, had to to set off last week, to magistrates courts in Wimbledon and Cheltenham, to queue up and be searched, to represent her clients. ‘Not a sign of hand sanitiser’. She felt compelled to write to to her MP and the leader of Hammersmith (her local) council about it.
Not a sign of hand sanitiser
The Ministry of Justice (probably better named Ministry of Injustice) seem to know nothing about ‘social distancing’. Let me give you some examples of my personal experience in the last week.
Monday I schlepped off to Wimbledon Magistrates Court – client up for drink driving. Got to Court and showed security my MoJ pass (I sit on the bench of Employment Tribunal so have one with a photo and that is supposed to grant me access to any MoJ building). Security refused to recognise. Fair enough so I then showed her Bar Council pass on my phone (Wimbledon Court supposed to be taking part in that scheme). Security person couldn’t get her phone to work, therefore, could not verify pass but spent 15 min trying to. So, Security make me queue up with defendants and witnesses to be searched (thoroughly). Not a sign of hand sanitiser etc. What are the chances of a middle-aged woman bringing a fake MoJ pass to Court and, along with that, a fake Bar Council pass? Doesn’t matter – automaton decides I am not to be trusted so searched I must be.
Wednesday, my friend Julian, another barrister emailed Luton Court to seek an adjournment on basis his client was in Spain and could not get out of Spain. Response (twice) was that he needed to attend and apply in person. So, off he schlepped from Wimbledon to Luton and the application was granted in a couple of minutes. He too had to queue up to get through security. Anyway, after that waste of time, off he went back home to his very young children.
Friday, I rocked up at Cheltenham Court. Searched (along with everyone else entering Court). No gloves or hand sanitiser in sight (but they are more pleasant than Wimbledon). In the Advocates room I was joking with other barristers quoting Shakespeare ‘First thing we do is kill all the lawyers’ and I was told that the week before there were bottles of hand sanitiser around but this week a member of the Court staff had collected them all and placed them in the Magistrates retiring room. Don’t know if that is true or not (hearsay) but fact is I could see none around let alone being used.
My friend Julian and I deal with traffic offences. The offence I dealt with on Friday was a youth charged with no insurance. He had fully comp insurance for his car but the problem was his car was in the garage and he drove his Dad’s car but, despite fact he paid £3.5K for insurance it did not cover him to drive his Dad’s car. Technical and PC should have let him off with a warning but that is not how money is raised for the Government.
So, minor traffic offences being prosecuted but if my client had been charged with murder, case would have been adjourned because of Coronavirus.
I am amused when I read those over 70 to be placed under (roughly) house arrest, bars closed, gyms closed and so on to ensure ‘social distancing’ whereas the Ministry of Injustice (a Government Dept) are intent on doing their best to spread Coronavirus (or given the state of the Courts any other disease).
Quite astonishing that you/the Government should shut parks but I am due in Brighton Court on Friday to represent a chief exec of a successful Co, a middle aged man who has never been to Court before, on a speeding charge. He will queue up to be thoroughly searched by security and, when the case is over, he will go home to his wife and kids and I will schlep back to London and cook dinner for my son and his friend who are off school because of Coronavirus.
Other friends/members of my family cannot believe this is happening but Secret Barrister and everyone else involved with the justice system knows that it is just typical of the MoJ BUT I thought I would write this long email to you because you ought to know because what is happening is just wrong & possibly dangerous.
Doesn’t seem to matter what madness the MoJ gets involved with e.g. sale of Hammersmith Court, endangering lives, etc. – they get away with it.
Interested in raising it? It is controversial but can be corroborated and is definitely the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.