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Magistrates Courts Procedures and Disability Discrimination(8 Posts)
I'm not really sure what my question is, I guess this is a more 'interested in your observations' thread than seeking and answer.
I went to spend some time in a magistrates court recently to assist me with my law studies. I was rather taken aback at the lack of .....something I can't quite put my finger on.... towards disability. I am autistic and I also muscular disability. I find it very difficult to stand and walk around. My muscles go to sleep very quickly and I struggle to get out of a chair. I have a blue badge and have to use either a walking frame or on a good day a walking stick or 2.
When I arrived at the court I had to go through a metal detector, which I set off. I had to empty my pockets and put my bag on the side, but I still set it off. I kept having to walk backwards and forwards through this bloomin machine, repeatedly setting it off and being searched, until another guard spotted that it was my walking sticks which were setting if off. (How stoopid am I) So then they insisted I walk through without them. Hallo! I don't have them for fun you know. I did it, but I was very unhappy because I was very unstable.
Then there was the grand old duke of york routine in the actual court. You know what I mean, 'all rise' every time the magistrates enter or leave the room. I confess, I didn't try to stand but that's because I know the limitations of my disability. The clerk came over with a face like thunder and gave me a right telling off in front of everyone. I tried to point out my walking sticks and that I was disabled but she was having none of. After that she glared at me everytime it was time to stand. So I did my best but I'm slow so by the time I got up everyone else had already sat down and I felt like a bit of tit. In the end I left early because I felt a bit humiliated and I'd had enough.
I do wonder what the consequences would have been if I had ignored the clerk and remained seated.
I also wonder if the magistrates court are also bound by the Human Rights Act and if they breach it, how one would go about taking a Court to Court. Purely hypothetically of course.
I am sorry that you had a bad experience.
I hope you will find that it was an anomaly. I have a few disabled friends who go to court for professional purposes and they rarely experience problems.
Try not to be overawed by the setting and just say, with a smile, as I am sure you do normally "Sorry, I am not able to do x because of my disability".
You were not treated well on your visit. Maybe a letter of complaint to the court manager would be in order?
The Legal Advisor was a tit. I work in Mags Courts all the time and none of the Legal Advisors I know would have been so rude-after you pointed out your disability. If it happens again, ignore him/her and address the magistrates/Judge directly, and say that there is no disrespect intended and that you have a disability which makes standing difficult. That will shut the eejit up. I have problems standing up occasionally, and I just excuse myself to the Court, and it's not an issue. Also we have more than one magistrate who have a disabilities, so the Legal Advisors are quite clued up.
Hope this doesn't put you off. Sometimes the LA can be quite fierce if they think disrespect is being shown to the Court-as you can imagine there are quite a lot of incidents where this is intentional.
Yes, I think she thought I was being delibrately difficult. I was also pretty sure she was out of order, but as a first visitor, I didn't feel confident in ignoring here. I was scared I might end up in a cell myself
My mum has the same condition as me and she spends half her life in the same court (she's head of the councils council tax recovery department not a career criminal) and she's never had a problem. I suspect the clerk assumes that anyone is the public area is of dodgy stock.
Next time I'm going to take my walking frame and run over her toes with it. And no that is not a confession and cannot be used in evidence against me.
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