Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Grays Youth Court: Bring Your Excuses

Editorial Comment

THE DAY didn’t start well at Grays Magistrates Court. The Youth Worker came out and asked the security guard. “Could you get the next youth off the roof, His case is up next!”

The 12-year-old youth naturally obliged and the court was able to start without the pitter patter of tiny feet stomping on the roof of the court.

The first case in, has already been documented. The girl, who up on her third charge of the year for theft of shirts, was asked what she would like to do when she leaves school. She replied: “Legal Secretary.” Some would say, she would be perfectly suited in a lawyers office, where they too will take the shirt off your back at the earliest opportunity!

What was significant in the three hour session, was the vast number of young offenders, was the vast swathes of miscreants who had failed to comply with the requirements of a rehabilitation order.

What we were not quite prepared for was the breath-taking number of limp excuses that were offered and accepted without a caution, criticism or sanction.

1. “I was out at a party.”
2. “I just can’t get up in the mornings…”
3. “I come from a f****** dysfunctional family.”

..and those were the ones that turned up!

The common sentence seemed to be that the court was going to revoke the rehabilitation order and impose another one. This was their last chance and you had the feeling that after that there was only one alternative but to give them a last last chance.

What the court seems to forget is that journalists are sitting at the back and documenting who was given a last chance a few months ago and warned that they would be given a custodial sentence.

Instead, the main business of the day appears to be getting through as many cases as they can in the three hours alloted. Punishments that fit the crime seems a secondary consideration. That was especially clear with the case of the youth who hospitalised two police officers and again was given another last last chance.

Of course it would help the case of the court if they imposed some form of dress code.

I have seen it work in New York City. I reported from the Courts of Lower Manhattan in Centre Street, where every friday morning, Judge Michael Corriero ran the Youth Court. The inspirational judge from Little Italy ran a tough but fair court and brooke no dissent. One custody case from the Horizon Juvenile Center in the South Bronx (ex-resident, Mike Tyson) strolled in with pants down and hat akimbo. Judge Corriero looked him in the eye and sent him straight back for two weeks. He then has words with his youth worker which made him aware in no uncertain terms how defendants should come to court. By contrast, the next case, had his mother, brothers, cousins and indeed his Pastor with him.

At Grays, we saw a boy in his vest, one with one shoe, one on the roof, one with Fed Sex on a t-shirt. One youth stood throughout with his hands in his pockets and one smirked throughout.

Funnily enough, as I scribbled away at the back, the usher approached and said: “The Clerk doesn’t mind you being here but could you take the sunglasses off the top of your head?”

“Of course” I replied. “I wouldn’t want to be held in contempt”.

As the day ended, the youths gathered outside. One was asked if he was going out. He replied: “Yeah. I’m on the tag but they don’t check.”

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  1. This report just highlights the absolute terrible state our Justice system is in, final warnings after final warnings, is it any wonder whay the youth crime is rising, they know that the punishment given out by these so called custodians of justice means absolutley nothing to them.

    The sooner this country wakes up to the lax way that criminals are treated the better, maybe we should employ the 3 strikes rule as they do in the USA maybe then offenders would think twice about commiting even minor crimes.


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