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All Around the World
Some Might Say
I Feel For You
Martin Wainwright, Saturday 25th August 2012 07:45
In modest imitation of Charles Dickens' early work, the Guardian Northerner runs occasional reports of life in our three regions' courts. The first, including a claim for the record of the UK's fastest jury trial in modern times, or possibly ever, is here.
And here is the second; starting with a schoolboy who appeared before magistrates this week on Teesside accused of going to school.
In legal terms, the charge was causing a nuisance or disturbance on school premises but the story is a wider morality tale, as was so often the case in Dickens' work. The boy, who cannot be named any more than the school can because he is under age and the proceedings were in Teesside youth court, was hardly doing anything which would normally warrant lawyers.
He had gone in to a friend's technology class to help him with his woodwork, but the trouble was, that he had been excluded from the school two years ago and still is. The technology teacher, who had not been in the job long, did not recognise him although someone else did pretty smartly. The court heard that he had been challenged at 8.45am.
Kate Hills, prosecuting, told the court:
He had gone into the technology room and was assisting one of his friends with his work. Police were called and he was removed from the school and interviewed.
She added that the boy had a history while at school of swearing and throwing furniture around which had led to his exclusion.
John Clish, defending, came to the morality tale part of the case. The boy was bored. Whatever the frustrations of school, he was not enjoying life without it.
At the time of the offence he was not doing anything meaningful and was maybe envious of his friends who had the benefit of education.
His entry into the school had been 'relatively straightforward', he pleaded guilty and appreciated that he shouldn't have done it and he had sent a letter apologising.
The boy was given a three month referral order to regular sessions which, if not quite the same as school, will try to address the problems facing him.
Meanwhile, in Teesside's adult courts, a burglar was told that he was free to leave court but asked the judge to jail him instead. Again, the law was not dealing with some would-be comedy turn, but a man who appeared to be faltering in the face of the challenges of a difficult life.
Recorder Anton Lodge heard that Darren Harrison, a 32-year-old general labourer with a drug habit and a partner for whom he is the principal carer, had stolen £60 cash from a householder for whom he was doing the job. There was no violence or break-in; it was an opportunist theft from a room, and the judge sentenced him to 40 weeks in jail, suspended for two years with 18 months supervision and 150 hours' unpaid work.
I know I did wrong and I deserve to go to jail. I would like a prison sentence.
The Recorder adjourned while Harrison had a brief discussion with his solicitor Gordon Brown who then told the court that he would accept the original sentence after all. The judge accepted, but added:
Perhaps he doesn't see his domestic circumstances as you see his domestic circumstances. Perhaps he wants to get away from them.