Journal: Paula Robinson-Aberdeen

Observation: Bromley Magistrates Court

Date: 15th October 2015

We met with a sitting Judge who explained her role to us in some depth emphasising that she has a legal background and presides over trials featuring minor crimes to crimes of murder. She also intimated that magistrates also had the power to preside over similar cases which surprised me given the fact that most magistrates do not have a legal background.

I hadn't understood before the explicit relationship between the magistrates' court and the crown court as I thought only certain crimes would be tried at a magistrates court. I observed four trials, one of which was a virtual trial via video link.

The three 'face to face' trials observed allowed me to both gage the type of case that could be readily dealt with as a civil matter and those destined for the crown court and how the crime helps with that differentiation. I was also struck by the personality and manner with which each Judge interacted with the defendants.

They were warm, facilitative but clearly communicated the consequences of the defendants' actions now and in the future. I'm not sure what I expected but was left with mixed feelings about whether the younger defendants truly understood the seriousness of appearing in court and facing bans and fines that might affect their lives. Striking the right balance in your approach as a Magistrate is clearly an acquired skill.

I found the virtual court the most fascinating and innovative purely because of the speedy way in which 'justice' was expedited but also because I wondered whether that process reduces the psychological impact of the crime especially as it eliminates the need for defendants to be transported to court in handcuffs and in a secure vehicle.

A generally positive experience which has motivated me to apply to become a magistrate.

Unfortunately due to holiday commitments this is my only observation so far but I hope to attend a mayor and cabinet meeting this evening.