From time to time I have shared with you the minor disasters and irritations of my professional life. This has been cheaper than therapy. Probably not as effective, but cheaper. And I hope that my moans and gripes have illustrated to the uninitiated that the Criminal Justice System operates about as effectively as Natalie Bennet when she is full of a cold.
The daily occurrences of incompetence, ineptitude and inadequacy are such features of, well, daily life that I am now letting them pass by without comment. So I have neglected to tell you about the Prison Officer who appeared over the videolink and candidly announced “We will probably run late with the links today, we are short of staff. Don’t blame me, blame the Government.” Which was fair enough.
On the subject of videolinks, I was remiss in not telling you of the videolink which commenced with the clerk asking for the defendant to be brought into the booth. So we awaited his arrival. And waited. And waited. A good ten minutes. Counsel, court staff and Judge, looking at a TV screen showing a chair in front of a curtain. Eventually an officer re-entered the booth.
“There is a delay,” she announced. Which came as no shock to those of us who had been sitting there for the aforementioned ten minutes.
“We can’t find him.” Which did come as a surprise to everyone as he was in prison, and as a particular surprise to defence counsel who had spoken to him moments earlier in the conference booth.
Nor did I tell you about the case that was listed for videolink where the prison mistakenly put the defendant on the van instead. And the cells sent him back to prison because his PCMH was listed by videolink. Which he did not get back to the prison in time for. On the bright side, at least they knew where he was. Most of the time.
I shouldn’t just pick on custody cases and videolinks. There was the interpreter who had to be prompted to interpret. Every time. Or the interpreter that refused to assist in communicating with the defendant outside of court. Even when invited to by the Judge.
But I haven’t mentioned any of these because they have become such the norm of life in the courts that they barely register. All of the instances mentioned above have happened in the last two weeks. Including two Bank Holidays. And a day out of court. So that was seven days worth of cock-ups at court. I should mention that I have only picked the best ones.
One case has been such a catalogue of errors that I would not know where to even begin. That is a whole blog on its own. If I can ever bring myself to tell you about it.
I have been moved to put pen to paper once more…..or fingers to iPad….no, that sounds wrong. I have been moved to write (that’s better) about these cock-ups again because my two week trial, that was listed for Monday 13th April in August of last year has been pulled from the list on the Friday before. Despite the fact that I know another trial, listed for at least a week and due to start on Monday as well, was resolved this week. So that’s two trials they could not accommodate. Actually make that four trials as I know of two others that have been pulled. Whilst three courtrooms sit empty in the building.
It’s alright though. The offences only date back to 2009. It is only the second trial date. There are only six complainants waiting for their cases to be tried. (I am leaving to one side the dirty great big hole in my diary, although if any of you solicitors out there have any easy, private payers just knocking around over the next fortnight, you know where to find me….)
So the cock-ups are funny. Funny in a “if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry” kind of way. But they are symptomatic of a system that is just not working. It isn’t at breaking point. It’s broken.
There has been lots of talk in the last couple of years of excellence versus competence. Of quality versus efficiency. Right now, I’d settle for “barely functioning”. It would represent a step forward.