Posts Tagged 'jury service'

Guilty, M’lud

“Oh no”, said the spouse, “there’s a letter here from Glasgow Sheriff Court…don’t say you’ve been called for jury duty again? Twice in one year is bad enough, but three times? That’s unfortunate.”

“Don’t worry”, I said, excitedly, ” I sent them a letter about their hearing loop. It took me ages to write, I put my heart and soul into it…that’ll be their reply.

I made myself a nice cup of tea and settled down to open the letter, noting that it was a bit thin. Hmm. No compensatory free front row tickets for the public gallery at Court No 7, or gilt-edged invitation to see the ceremonial flicking of the ‘ON’ switch on the induction loop system for me, then.

I started reading.

‘Dear Sir/Madam,’ began the letter. I noted the personal touch. ‘Your comments and ratings are appreciated and helpful in particular where you highlight the hearing loop issues, perceived lack of training…’

Perceived lack of training? interjected my inner Rumpole of the Bailey, perceived?

I cast my mind back to the clerk of court saying that she wasn’t sure how to operate the loop system. The lack of training had seemed very real to me at the time, but I had to concede that if one now analysed the situation from a phenomenological point of view, then I had indeed perceived the lack of training, in the same way that I had perceived the courthouse, the clerk, the lack of a loop signal, and everything else since I’d got out of bed on that October morning. It certainly was real to me, but I had no way of proving that it was real to anybody else, and with the insertion of the word ‘perceived’ the Sheriffdom was making it clear that it wasn’t necessarily real to them.

I read on. I still had another three lines to go.

‘…perceived lack of training, door closers and public announcements. All of the foregoing will prove invaluable in our attempts to improve service to all court users and be taken forward in early course. I do hope that on any future visit you can see an improvement in these areas.’

“Future visit? Future visit?” I screeched, “If there is a future visit I’ll be sitting on the other side of the dock. Still, at least I’ll be able to hear the indictment next time.”

All of a sudden, I was transported to my new and improved future visit to Glasgow Sheriff Court.

“All stand”, said the clerk.

The Sheriff entered solemnly and took his seat. This time, the door closed silently behind him instead of banging shut. The packed courtroom was hushed apart from an intermittent high pitched whistling noise coming from the front row of the public gallery. A few feet away, the prisoner in the dock was fiddling with her ears.

“Moira Dancer,” began the Sheriff gravely, “I charge that on the fourteenth day of November two thousand and thirteen, at or about 8:45pm, you did blow a gasket upon reading the reply to your complaint letter from the Estates and Administration Department of the Sheriffdom of Glasgow and, after removing both hearing aids in a calculated manner, committed a breach of the peace in the kitchen of a tenement flat in the south side of Glasgow. How do you plead?”

“Guilty as sin, M’lud,” I answered, “although, in my defence, I perceived at the time of the incident that I was speaking at a normal conversational level.”

“Have you anything else to add before you are taken down?” asked the Sheriff.

“As a matter of fact, I have. For the benefit of myself, and any other hearing aid users on the benches or in the public gallery, would you please remember to speak into your microphone. It’s currently pointing at the wall.”

Complaint letter

reply

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Insult to injury

Glasgow Sheriff Court reception

As one might expect in an establishment of the Justiciary, the reception desk at Glasgow Sheriff Court (above) is designed to keep restless punters at a safe distance. I found that it was also very effective at keeping the hard of hearing at a safe distance but, luckily, my ability to bend double over table tops in order to hear has grown prodigious over the years; in fact, I almost feel quite insecure if I can’t feel the edge of a table, desk or counter digging into my abdomen whilst attempting to conduct conversation in noisy surroundings.

The cheery man behind the desk should have noticed there was something unusual about the middle-aged woman on tiptoes, draped gymnastically over the brushed metal barrier surrounding his fortress, with her elbows balanced on the granite counter. Something in her intense gaze…

court transcript2

Silence In Court

court transcript

I could barely contain my excitement as I turned up for jury duty and surveyed the array of microphones dotted about the courtroom. The Information for Jurors leaflet sent with my citation had promised hearing loops in all the courtrooms used for jury trials, and I looked forward to effortlessly hearing my name not being called out when fifteen names were selected from the clerk of court’s glass bowl.

My optimism was rather short-lived, however. While court officials were busy trying to ascertain whether the scheduled trial would go ahead, the first job for the assembled jurors-to-be was to witness the Sheriff sentencing a previously convicted Accused. Had the loop system actually been switched on, I might have known what crime he committed and what sentence he got, but perhaps ignorance is bliss when you’re sitting six feet away from a convicted criminal flanked by two burly prison officers.

Once the proceedings were done and we were despatched for a break, I finally plucked up the courage to ask the clerk of court whether the loop was switched on. Reassuringly, she told me that she didn’t know how to switch it on, but that in any case, it would only work during an actual trial whilst the proceedings were being recorded.

Mindful of the police officer to my left and the prison cells below my feet, I decided not to ask what bloody use that was when the bits before the trial were just as important to hear. Especially when my roll-call citation number didn’t have any hard consonants in it for the cookie bite ears to latch on to.

High hearing hopes dashed, I sloped off to the corridor and resigned myself to remaining conspicuously seated in the almost empty front row, for the remainder of my stint in Court X.


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