The Court of His Honour Judge Parr-Teeline QC in the Crown/Magistrates’/Civil Justice/Family Court sitting at the Georgraphical Area known as “The North”. It is 8:32 am on day 1,735 of the Flexible Operating Hours pilot scheme. There is the customary knock on the door and all stand for the Judge. All, that is, bar one advocate who has his head on the desk and is snoring loudly.
HHJ P-T QC: (coughs loudly) Mr Van-Winkle…ahem….(louder) MR VAN-WINKLE
Mr Van-Winkle wakes with a start and leaps to his feet. He pulls his gown tight around his body in a defensive cloak.
MR V-W: Very sorry Your Honour, I was involved in a sentence in Her Honour Judge Worker’s evening shift court last night and it hardly seemed worth heading home so I got my head down here. Seemed a more efficient way of deploying the Court Estate.
HHJ P-T QC: No problem, Mr Van-Winkle, but perhaps….just….(the Judge points to his own wig)
Van-Winkle’s hand feels the top of his head where he discovers a Victorian style night cap. He quickly whips it off and replaces it with his wig. The Judge now addresses the Court Clerk.
HHJ P-T QC: Right, can we have the defendants into the dock please.
The Court Clerk stands and speaks loudly enough for everyone to hear.
CC: I am sorry Your Honour, they haven’t been produced. Apparently the van bringing them here set off at 5.30 this morning but had to drop off at two other local courts and pick up from the overnight midnight remand court. I am told they won’t be here until 2.30 this afternoon.
HHJ P-T QC: I am sorry, you said “local courts”. How on earth can it take until 2.30 to get here from two other local courts?
CC: Well, since the FOH pilot has been running, coincidentally one or two buildings have been mothballed. The nearest court to here is 100 miles away.
HHJ P-T QC: Right, well, we will just have to put this case back to 2.30 and we will deal with it then.
CC: I am sorry Your Honour, but this afternoon this courtroom is being used by His Honour Judge Tardy for day 12 of a 3 day burglary trial. They lost 8 days due to counsel drafting formal admissions and having conferences. They used to do it over lunch, but of course there isn’t a short adjournment any more. Only long ones.
HHJ P-T QC: So I can’t sit in this courtroom at a time to accommodate an entirely predictable but unforeseen hiccup?
HHJ P-T QC: That’s not very “flexible” is it? (becoming somewhat exasperated) We will just have to sit in Court 2…
CC: Ah. Again, a problem I am afraid. Court 2 is the Parking Dispute Hub between 1.15 and 2.30. Then it is sitting as the Tribunal of All Things between 2.30 and 3.30, is hosting a children’s tea party between 3.30 and 4.15 and then is sitting as a Magistrates’ Court until 7pm. Then it becomes the Wizengamot. Harry Potter is in trouble again.
HHJ P-T QC: But this is still the Crown Court, right? Where we do Crown Court cases? Criminal cases? That do not always start and finish on time?
CC: If Your Honour wants to look at it from a purely jurisdictional silo point of view….
HHJ P-T QC: A what?
CC: A jurisdictional silo point of view….
HHJ P-T QC: Yes, yes, yes. I heard what you said. But what does it mean?
CC: I dunno. I read it somewhere. You’re the Judge. You are meant to know what it means.
HHJ P-T QC: I think you may need to lay off watching those old episodes of The Office…Anyway, let’s see if I can make some progress with just counsel. Who is for the first defendant?
(The Courtroom is in silence, apart from the faint sound of heavy breathing as Mr Van-Winkle has nodded off again)
CC: Now I can help you there. Counsel for the first defendant is Miss Life-Balance. Or it was. We have been informed that she has had to leave the Bar because it became impossible to find child care that fitted around the uncertain hours so it is now Mr Tether.
HHJ P-T QC: And where is Mr Tether?
CC: He emailed the Court this morning. If I can just read the email to Your Honour….
The Court Clerk bends down and begins to read from his computer screen
CC: Yes he emailed to say that the only train he could get that arrived on time for court left his hometown at 4.45 in the morning and involved three changes. He says that if you think he is staying overnight for a mention for which he doesn’t get paid then you’ve got another fuc….well, another thing coming. He then goes on to say that he couldn’t do anything anyway as they only found out that the case was listed at this time late last night because he was in the Mags until 8pm. Then there is some more swearing. A bit more swearing. Then he explains that, having got up at the crack of effing dawn to get the effing train, in fact it was effing-well late and he missed one of the connections so now won’t be here on time, despite having not slept and that if this causes a problem you can go….swing….. yes “swing” probably covers it. May not do justice to his full phrase, but you get the gist. There is then a whole paragraph about why the trains are delayed and swears quite a lot around the name “Chris Grayling” and repeats the phrase “what do you expect if you put him in charge of anything”….
HHJ P-T QC: ….that much the Court can take judicial notice of…..
CC: ….and he finishes with a plea that no matter what, could Your Honour refrain from ordering any more skeleton arguments because he has a 9.30 morning videolink hearing tomorrow, followed by a 4.30 videolink in the afternoon and a floating trial the rest of the week that he thinks may float either in the morning or the afternoon, not that he “effin cares any more” because “it doesn’t make a difference what I think as I am the bottom of the pile and no one listens” before he signs off “Up Yours, Enda Tether”.
HHJ P-T QC: There is nothing else for it but to adjourn this hearing until next week. I myself am not sitting but…
(The Court Clerk rises to interrupt)
CC: Just one small problem for next week….
HHJ P-T QC: What is it? Is the Star Chamber sitting in this courtroom? Are they judging Crufts in here? Is the court needed to accommodate the Supreme Court? Are we hosting the Salem Witch Trials?
CC: No Your Honour, the courtroom is free to hear Crown Court cases….
HHJ P-T QC: What’s the problem then?
CC: With Your Honour being on holiday we haven’t got any sitting days left in the budget…so although we have plenty of space in the building…we don’t have a Judge…..
HHJ P-T QC: (bellows) OH FOR FUC…..
(At this point the transcript becomes unintelligible as Mr Van-Winkle emitted a loud snore. Mr Tether is believed to still be somewhere on the Rail Network. Miss Life-Balance now has a job where she is treated with respect and consideration. This is a new sensation for her.)