An excellent post from a Magistrate here in the UK
I am one of the lucky people, off to spend Christmas with my family, especially my two wonderful granddaughters. One of my children won’t be there, but with the help of Skype we should be able to bridge the 5000 mile gap between us.
It’s a good time to spare a thought for the many people who aren’t so fortunate. There are about 85,000 people in prison (a few of them there because of decisions in which I had a hand). Many of them have families, and there are few sadder sights than the waiting rooms of prison visitor suites, with bedraggled young women, their lifestyle having aged them prematurely, clutching babies and small children, waiting for a brief meeting with Daddy. Those kids are victims too, like the frightened people who barricade themselves in to avoid the unwelcome attentions of their criminal and antisocial neighbours.
For many, the Christmas ‘celebrations’ will take place in a drug-addled haze while others will drink themselves into a rage and attack each other, their families, or sometimes total strangers. Police and emergency services will be on hand to intervene in the inevitable family bust-ups, since Christmas is notoriously a peak time for domestic strife. Child Protection Officers and Council staff will be on call over the holiday. The assaults and the drink-drivers and the robbers and the burglars and the domestic thugs will all begin to appear in court from the beginning of next week. There are skeleton-staffed courts available even on Christmas Day, just as there is a duty High Court judge or two, just in case. Then on January 3rd the newly reorganised magistrates’ courts will open for business as we all see how we are going to get on with severely reduced resources, fewer staff, fewer courtrooms, and the rest.
So I for one shall give quiet thanks for my own family’s good fortune, and try to remember that there but for the grace of God goes any of us.