There are many things that frustrate my criminal law clients when they go to court to have a matter dealt with. The perceived lies told by opposing witnesses, the inconsistency of the judiciary when imposing penalties, the unfamiliar rules of evidence which may not allow them to fully tell their story, and dare I say it…..the cost of legal representation.
Nothing however frustrates them more I dont think than having their matter listed for hearing, going to court, waiting around all day for a Magistrate to hear the matter, then being told that the court wont have time to hear them that day and they will have to come back another day.
Now it is no ones fault. The court system lists more matters on a day than they can actually get through because a lot of people seek adjournments for various reasons and often people at the last minute change their minds and plead guilty to offences that they had previously entered not guilty pleas to, thus greatly shortening their time in court.
It is no use having highly skilled and highly paid magistrates twiddling their thumbs at 11.30 in the morning, because they have completed all the work allocated for that court already.
I must say in my almost 20 years of practicing criminal law it doesn’t happen that often, but it has happened to a couple of my clients recently, and I get the impression it is becoming more common.
Now it is not so much the additional cost of legal representation when clients have to return to court on another occasion that is most upsetting to, although this extra financial burden is relevant.
What is most upsetting to the clients is that they have mentally prepared themselves for that day, a day that will FINALISE their matter.
Now the result of the court proceedings may not have a significant impact on their lives. The worst case scenario may be that upon conviction they would be only fined or placed on a good behaviour bond. Yet the anxiety of having that process in their lives is weighing upon them, ever present and draining.
Alternatively the proceedings may potentially have a much greater impact on their lives.
They may have been carrying the burden of knowing that if convicted of the criminal offence, they could lose their job, therefore their income, placing enormous financial stress on their family.
They may have been carrying the stress of that day being the day they again face a person, whether it be former partner, family member, former friend, employer whom has had a very negative impact on their life, whom they have tried to forget and seeing that person again will re-open old wounds.
Finally they may have been carrying the burden of knowing that if things dont go their way in court, that they wont be returning home tonight to familiar surroundings and family, that they will be escorted to a police cell and moved on to a prison facility and all of the trepidations that carries.
To have all of that racing through your mind for weeks and sometimes months beforehand and then to get to court and are told that you are going to have to wait additional weeks or months, is simply more than some clients can bare and frankly…..more than anyone deserves.