On Tuesday 14th January, myself and a group of year 12 students went on a visit to Blackpool Magistrate’s Court. We were sat down – and asked to stay quiet – in a box at the side of the court, with a clear view of everything that was going on. Slowly things fell into place, people got to where they needed to be, and the first of seven cases began.
As we expected – and had been warned – the morning progressed slowly; nobody was keen to do anything quickly. This meant there was time spent sitting between cases, time the magistrates filled by taking our questions and answering them with surprising honesty. Why they had decided to do this job. What they thought about the legal system they worked in. They were also keen to explain the court to us; speaking through all the roles and responsibilities to clarify the legal process.
Something that quickly came apparent was the way everybody was treated with respect. The legal framework was followed compassionately by the magistrates and each case was considered by its own merits. Many of the legal infringements took place during the Christmas period, highlighting the juxtaposition between merriment and a rise in mental health the season can bring to many people.
The magistrates expressed that they wished more young people were involved in law, as we could provide the perspective needed in certain cases like these. I attended the day mostly out of curiosity and left with a genuine interest, and I’m sure I am also speaking for my peers when I say this.
Another thread that connected the people we saw was the measures they were taking to improve themselves. Every one of them was enrolled in some course or other, actively seeking to improve their situation. Many of us sitting there were genuinely compelled by the cases the accused made for themselves, and this only highlighted how difficult it must be to sit in the magistrate’s chair – having to balance objective facts with compassion and reach a conclusion that was both fair and harsh.
Exiting the courts, we were all full of opinions: some felt that justice had been done. There was a strong belief from some that the legal system simply does not work the way it should. If it should be seen as a rigid, punitive process. A few of the group felt uncomfortable at how they felt they had been prying, witnessing a person at their worst when they really didn’t want to be seen, clearly feeling genuine remorse for the crimes they had committed. We left with questions, which informed opinions, and therefore made this day very meaningful.
Sam C, Year 12 student, AKS Lytham