Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Day in Court

It's a bit like an extended family gathering: the judges, barristers & solicitors are the grown ups. They have that look of silent understanding that they are the world wisely stalwarts, pillars of society you might say. The Gardai, now they're another story. They sit giggling and chatting in rows like a bunch of teenage cousins, one trying to outdo the other with a smart comment or a jibe. Every now and then the judge will go 'shush' and they all shut up for a few minutes until the next bout begins. 
The defendants and the accused, well they are the outsiders who, for whatever misfortune, have been dragged into this family melee ( and pay attention to the word melee, it will reappear further down the page of this blog). 
So the grown ups begin to mediate. First of all a Garda puts forward an appeal. A woman is appealing the fact that she has been disqualified from driving for three years. Granted, she was twice over the limit, she admits that, but she only had a ten minute drive home and her designated driver had let her down. Besides, the Garda points out (at the cost of the tax payer) this lady is a nurse, and doesn't she have an awful big mortgage and she needs the car for work, could we not make the punishment more lenient?  The judge is not impressed, he says he should really be sending her to jail. I'm on the edge of my seat as I listen.
I'm now at risk of causing one of the grown ups to bang down a hammer and shout 'order in court', because all of a sudden I'm bursting to jump up and shout 'so if it was only a ten minute drive, why didn't she call a taxi?' In fact, she could have walked.  But I don't. The judge doesn't grant leniency, but he does point out that he should be imposing a jail sentence but that in this case he won't. The reason - because she's a nice good girl, a respectable nurse, so he'll let her off. Not only do I want to jump up at this stage, I want to jump up and down on a pogo stick and ask the judge does that mean he'd send her to jail if she were a busker or a bar maid?
But then the next case comes along and all of a sudden nobody cares about the legless nurse who lost her wheels anymore.
The court hears how two brothers 'exchanged words' with a man outside a pub. Then one of them threw a punch at the man, then the man fell to the ground and yer man gives him a right beating. It sounds very black and white, just the thing for the law, a person in the right and a person in the wrong. But it starts to get messy. It seems the fight had more than fists, it had legs and roots and history and a rift between two families going back a generation. And as if it could end there, no. The two brothers, big lads, one of them a boxer decided to get reinforcement. So they went home and got their mammy. This is the bit where I'm on the edge of the seat again. Their mammy? Two fist fighting boxers pick on one guy, beat him up, and then go home to get mammy to come sort it out. And that's just what mammy did. Mammy drove the lads back to the pub and they got going on their victim again, whilst mammy had a go at the victim's wife. 
I'm expecting the judge to give this guy a spell behind bars and a hefty fine, but then the boxer lad's solicitor stands up. 
There were important points to be made. Theoretically, the man who was attacked actually fell to the ground and was not pushed by the boxer lad at all. This is because by the time the boys had gone home and gotten mammy, the other side had gathered a few supporters too, so what ensued was not one man attacking another, by now it was a melee (remember I said that word would come back?).  Things got mentioned, such as the fact that some members of these two warring families were first cousins, and that nobody was sure what exactly it was that started up the feud twenty years ago. Although the accused had a string of previous convictions, his lawyer pointed out how  he was a family man who was very keen for this feud to end. Strange way of initiating the end of a feud, but I was getting used to being quiet at this stage. 
The judge said that he should really be sending this guy to jail (with the nurse who should be getting sent to jail too), but that if they all agreed to go to mediation and get it sorted that he'd let them off as long as they gave some money to the guy who they beat up. The money was to make up for the fact that the guy had had to go through some operations to have a metal plate put into the arm that got broken during the melee. 
I decided that I should have been a judge, because just the night before, after listening to my two sons argue the same point for over two hours - it was more a heated discussion about who owns the earphones than a melee. So I told them to shut up and eat their dinner and that after dinner they were to stop talking about the problem and start looking for solutions. Not rocket science, but maybe there really is something about getting the mammy involved after all. 

Then case 11 was called - The State against Margaret Treanor...


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