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Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University Students Assn. Volume 40 Number 2. Feb 7 1977

From the Courts

From the Courts

Exterior of the magistrates court

There is an old saying, — that while two litigants go to court, it is only the lawyers who win. Such cynicism unfortunately can too often be justified. Considering that approx one person in three will, in their life, appear before our courts on some charge, this situation is intolerable. The right of every man to his day in court is more of a nightmare than the exercising of some prerogative. In our Criminal legal system the high ideals of Justice tend not to be the reality.

Each week a few examples of our system in action will be illustrated. This is not an attempt to find the dirt under the proverbial carpet, rather the reports are intened to illustrate both the advantages and disadvantages of the Courts in action.

The twice I appeared before the Bench I was so scared that I could hardly stammer an apology "It's me bike Sir, I don't mean to speed but..." so much for my alledged Legal training. How much more scared the Islander who proceeded me must have been. The charge was serious, Drunken driving. This chaps name was called and he stood up. Impatiently the court officials ushered him into the dock. Merely one of hundreds on a Monday morning. The accused sat down. Sin of sins, and the Clerk of the court gestured for him to stand. The charge was read out with the traditional ending:

"How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?"

Answer: "Yes"

Again the charge was read, questioning.

"How do you plead?"

Again the reply, "Yes."

His worship leaned over an quietly enquired "do you speak. English?" "Yes", but accompanied by a look so blank that it could only be achieved by someone being interrogated in a foreign tongue. Naturally the case was stood down until an interpreter was available. Thankfully this man's limited English vocabulary did not include the word guilty for then the mistake may never have been discovered. In all the court officials, the police and the gallery got a few moments of humour. The question is, how did that man get into the dock without an interpreter or legal aid.

Sit in the court some day and watch. They may be the Queens courts, but the police and the lawyers stomp through them as if they own them. Her Majesty's subjects tiptoe and cringe.

— P. O'Leary