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Thursday, 5 June 2014

I am the law - Episode One

It’s 9.30am on a Monday and there is barely anyone here.
No black crows flapping about the social detritus and picking at the tired washed out living carcases that normally congregate within the foyer of the court, no aggressive threats malevolently hanging in the air crashing like thunder against equally aggressive colloquial greetings.
Apart from the distant clicking of heels on a staircase and the scratching of the nub of a pen against paper all is an oasis of calm.
It turns out that my first day of jury duty is a bust.
There will be no selection process and after an apology from the clerk followed rapidly with a request to return at 2pm tomorrow I am set free.
It’s a damp squib of a day.

2pm on a Tuesday and I am adrift in a sea of bodies.
My eyes dart between reading the signs on the walls to reading the legends emblazoned in indian ink on necks.
Leaning against a spare space of wall I look at the paperwork that was sent to me and the dress code notification isn't there.
A heads up to tell me that casual is acceptable, but tracksuits are preferable, would have been appreciated, but I suspect when they have loaded up the envelopes with citations and further information the sheet of paper with the dress code neatly typed on it slipped off the end of the desk leaving me looking like a slightly eccentric businessman lost in a throng of casual sportswear aficionados.
Kilmarnock Sheriff Court is pretty much indistinguishable with the ground floor of Sports Direct on the first day of the January sales.

Beside me some legal professional is stage whispering at a very young man who appears calmly bored.
She wants to know if he will change his plea to guilty and he casually asks how much evidence and witness statements there are against him.
She doesn’t say a mountainous shit load, but he gets the idea and grudgingly accepts that his options are limited.
Meanwhile his mother stands at his shoulder and contemplates having a nervous breakdown as she bites her nails down to the knuckle.
The different attitudes between the two generations are an infinite gulf.
One her part she considers that her sons future hangs precariously on a cliff edge, while for him it’s just another day.

For a few minutes I eavesdrop in on the Ayrshire equivalent of the Three Stooges as Baldy, Scarface and Squinty comment on how they haven’t seen the court so busy and then corroborate the story they are going to tell.

Conversations are at similar stages all around me.
None of the participants seem to realize that they are conducting their nefariously imbecilic plans to bypass justice within earshot of prospective jurors and in doing so are making the job of deciding on their guilt an easy one.

Unsurprisingly the flow of humanity that are collectively known as the accused in this instance are largely made up of individuals who may have a degree of feral intelligence, but not much else.
They exist in a no mans land between those who are considered socially unable to get through the day without practical support and guidance, and the rest of us.
Left to their own devices they gravitate towards dysfunction, drug and alcohol abuse - rather than use, and ultimately antisocial behaviour as that is their norm.
They weave through the court building completely comfortable in its environs as they are so familiar to the beating heart of it all that it is for some their second home.
It’s ultimately a tragedy that sits within a conundrum that few want to acknowledge.

Just as it looks like a fight will break out between the comedown kid in the Adidas sponsored corner and delirium tremens in the Nike sponsored corner a woman directs all of us prospective jurors into the courtroom and they are swept apart in the stampede.

Once seated in the court conversations drifts towards the responsibilities of being a juror.
“I’ll just decide if they look guilty or not. I'm not bothered about the evidence.”
“My memory is rubbish so I will just do the same.”
This conversation is carried out between two middle aged sounding women a couple of rows behind me.
The urge to turn around, pinpoint them, and then scream something about acting responsibly is immense, but before I can whip my head around faster than Linda Blair could a court official begins to eloquently explained why we are there, what we should expect and what is expected from us and then we are told to return the next day at 10am.
Two days down. Nothing has happened.
The wheels of justice may turn slower than most would consider.

10am on Wednesday.
It’s groundhog day.
Only the constellations of stars and names on necks have changed.
Within the courtroom the process of being picked for jury duty is explained.
Our names go in a goldfish bowl.
If you even find yourself in the dock there is no comfort can be found in considering that those picked will be a group of individuals who will listen to all the evidence and come to a fair conclusion based on it.
Pot luck is what is on offer.
The possibility of drawing the short straw and having a jury made up of right leaning Daily Mail reading reactionary compassion vacuums, with a smattering of EDL sympathizing Sun reading white van drivers, topped by a couple of people who list watching celebrity Big Brother and TOWIE as their intellectual pursuits, can scarily happen I suppose.
Equally if you are the victim of an assault the jury could be made up of Guardian reading social apologists who think the drunken lout who used your head to break his bottle of Buckfast is simply misunderstood, misguided, and worthy of yet another chance to prove to us all that they just need a cuddle.
Everything just appears to lie in the laps of the Gods and as an atheist that just isn't something I want to subscribe to.

Next episode – The case, the swivel eyed loon and the Teflon toughtie.

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