Observation Of A Court Visit
On 8th December 2009, I went to visit the Stratford Magistrate Court with few friends for a trial at 10. As I entered the court I was checked for security reasons and also had a bag check. I have visited this court before with a class when I used to be at college so I was familiar with the surrounding. It was on an opening day when I last visited and the court gave the whole class a tour around but however, I did not watch a trial. This was my first time to observe a trial, which I was looking really forward to.
At the reception, we approached a lady who told us there is a case with police evidence in Court 5 so we decided to wait for this case as it grabbed our attention. However, the trail was supposed to start at 10 am and it had delayed up to an hour. We were waiting at the waiting room for the trail to start and few people were waiting for their trails with their representations. A number of police officers were there sitting around waiting to give evidence.
I was getting really impatient to why the trail hasn’t begun yet and looked at the notice board to see the parties name and it was written Syed Ali from Bethnal Green. I came back and sat down and in front of me, I could see a guy looking really tensed and walking around. My friends and I thought this could be the defendant to whose trial we will be observing. Finally, someone came out of the court 5 and called out for Syed Ali and the defendant who was at the waiting room we believed would be Syed Ali entered the court and we followed him into the public viewing section.
When we entered, we sat down and then the magistrates entered and everyone stood up and sat back down. The trail of Syed Ali was short, the magistrates didn’t explain what the offences were as they have read it and told Syed he had to pay a fine of 100 pound and the charges against him would be dropped. He was bound to keep peace for 6 months to which he had agreed after this the court was dismissed and the prosecution lawyer came out and told the police officer he had got a fine. I was wondering how come the police did not give any evidence as we were told.
When I observed the five minute trial, I was not satisfied and wanted to watch a trial which is more in depth and has a lot of legal issues attached to it. The case of Syed Ali did not expand in details and the court did not mention what the offences were which made it hard to understand the overall case. This case was very hard to understand when no legal issues were raised by the court and it was very simplistic. So we went back to the reception and informed the lady that it was a very brief trail and wanted to see another one. She took us to Court 3, where the trail was already in progress and told us to go in quietly. The parties of this case are Mahmood and Hassan vs. Koppech.
As soon as I entered there were more people involved in this case and as I sat down a police officer named Pc Merit was giving evidence and was talking about the incident. I was observing but I didn’t quite understand the facts of the case as I just entered. The police immediately was told to leave and to call for another police officer who was involved. In the court the three magistrates were at the bench and the clerk in front with both the prosecution and the defence lawyers facing the bench. On the right, inside the box there were the defendants who were Asian males sitting with the interpreter. I recognised them from the waiting room. The victim was a white male sitting with a lady right in front of us.
The Police officer enters for whom the court was waiting for. He walks to the witness box and reads out the oath and has some evidence in his hand and introduces himself to the court. His name is Pc Harris and that he works at the Forest Gate Police station. The Prosecution lawyer stands up and starts to ask the officer some questions related to the incident and what actually happened. The Officer starts off by explaining to the court how the white male was in the pavement in Essex road on Friday 10th October at 6.00pm. The defendant, Koppech was at a boxing stunt image and the two defendants, Mahmood and Hassan had also ripped his t-shirt off and thrown paints on it. They were fighting with each other and then the two defendants went to a fully loaded skip where they picked up planks of wood and one of them had a nail on it and then they surrounded the white male at a 45 degree angle. Then at this particular moment the police described how he and his colleague came out of the vehicle and shouted out “police get down” repeatedly. The Police also stated that the defendants complied with the instructions straight away.
The prosecution lawyer also asked what the police thought would have happened if the police didn’t approach at this particular time. The police replied that he believed the white male would have been in a bad state with bruises and attacked brutally, he showed the two pieces of wood to the court as evidence. The Police also had the T-shirt and jacket of the white male and showed the court how it was ripped apart and had paints and mud on it.
The defence lawyer stood up and started asking the police if he believed that the defendants had the woods on their hand as a self defence and the police replied “no comments”. The police rounded the incident off by saying that he had escorted the other officer and white male and arrested the defendants and reported them in the Plaistow police station. During the hearing of the case, someone stood up and said other cases are to be looked at and see if any cases should be considered or applied before giving a verdict on this case. The magistrates decided to put the defendants and the white male on bail until the next hearing.
As I walked out of the court room, the defendants and the victim were walking out as well. I looked at the notice board for this case as I did not get a chance before and I realised what the lady meant when she mentioned about other cases. I could see a list of other cases all at the same time, which meant that various other cases where linked to this case. When I stepped in to the waiting room, I could see the victim and the defendants sitting next to each other at the waiting room although the court warned that they should stay away from each other. I found it quite strange how the two parties were next to each other. In a case like this normally a fight would kick in but these people were behaving as if they didn’t know each other but however, they were just staring at each other.
Both Court rooms I attended was very small and it did not have much space for public sitting and it contained three justices of peace but however, the waiting room was quite big with few benches where many people were sitting down on and some of the people seemed really tensed, which showed that they were here for a trial but not everyone was formally dressed and I assumed the ones with a casual look were here for other reasons but that wasn’t entirely true.
As this was a very small court, there wasn’t really serious cases heard in this magistrate court and someone told me that if I wanted to hear a more dramatic case I should attend a hearing at the Thames Magistrate Court situated in Bow, where more action is likely to take place and it is not very far to get to. The Court being small does have an effect on its proceedings as they don’t have really serious cases heard and I could see that some of the youths who came for the trial were dressed casually, which shows how serious people were about going for a trial.
My first impression of the court was that it was not organised as I had thought it would have been. They haven’t followed the timetable, which was set by the court itself. It just gave the impression of how laid back the court was, which led to many people waiting for the trial to start. I could see a lot of intense on people’s face and people were feeling really agitated. The court was very busy as people were walking around the aisle, which is also the place to wait for the trail. It wasn’t as noisy as I had expected to be with the number of people but people were quiet and anxious for the proceeding to go ahead.
Overall the Magistrates’ court solves criminal cases by the people who have no expert knowledge on law, which shows that justice is more likely to take place as it is unlikely to be biased as these people are not professionals but are normal people just like the members of the public. This relates to the English Legal System as the Magistrates’ Court is where the criminal cases are first heard and if any of the parties are not satisfied with the verdict then they can appeal to the Court of Appeal or have their case heard at the Crown Court. Magistrates’ court is where 95% of criminal cases are dealt with.
The court plays a huge role in the English legal system, firstly, vast majority of criminal cases in the English legal system are heard by the magistrates. The lay magistrates have the authority to give sentence up to 6 months or a 5,000 pound fine. This lets the higher courts to focus on more serious cases. The magistrates’ court helps the legal system to work faster as it is easier for a trial to take place in a magistrates’ court then it is to a crown court and the cost of a magistrates’ court is less expensive than a crown court, which helps the cases to reach a quicker verdict.
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