“I agree with you, Your Honour!”
His sorrowful blue eyes are filled with hope, his words — with honesty. It is unacceptable to interrupt the judge while he is giving the sentence. However, this young man had already broken some rules. He is 20, impulsive, even reckless at times, and deeply repentant now.
I will call him Jay.
It is Friday afternoon. I am visiting Harrow Crown Court aiming to observe and learn more about the British law system. The court is fairly big, three floors and security on the entrance. As soon as I come into the lobby. I notice the wall with announcements. There are eight court rooms. In some of them there are ongoing cases, in other the judge is about to sentence. I am going upstairs. On the second floor I find the cafeteria. At the time I am there the barristers, the solicitors, the judges and the rest of the court workers are having lunch.
Third floor is the place with the court rooms. Even though everyone is at their break now and almost no one can be seen, I looked around and all of a sudden I spot my story. Jay is sitting on a bench in front of the court room four with a woman. He is wearing bright white shirt and a tie. I can say the lady with him was his mum. Her frustrated face and anxious body language disclose her closer relationship to the boy. What did happen to them to be here on Friday?
Two hours left. Jay and his mother are on the same bench without any change. The court room is closed, there are no barristers, no move. I decide to make a move although I am not sure how ethical it will be to go and talk with Jay. I wait for his mother to go to the toilet and I speak to him. He smiles:
“Soon they’ll open the room and you can see what I did.”
We enter the room. The judge is there. The persecutor and the defence are ready, too. Jay is sitting opposite the judge. The final stage of the case begins. The prosecutor uses a CCTV footage to show what Jay did wrong and why he was here. “This is an outrageous scene, Your Honour,” the prosecutor says. The tape shows young boys, a bit drunk, started a fight on the street at night. They were pushing each other angrily. Suddenly, Jay lost his temper and punched one of the other boys. While the boy was on the ground, Jay kicked him in the head.It is frightful and shocking. I have seen boys fighting before, yet this is the first time seeing it on CCTV footage in court. Jay almost killed that boy. I look at him and unexpectedly our eyes meet. Mine are examining him, his are full of regret.
Jay is accused of nighttime assault combined with use of alcohol. His kick in the boy’s head is considered as equally serious as an attack with a weapon by the justice. The judge gives a fair rundown to the case:
“It’s a shame how often these days young men go drunk and end up fighting on the street”.
He is ready to pronounce the sentence. Jay’s offence is placed on the bottom of category one and on the top of category two. He is firstly convicted of 15 months in prison. For the reason that he pleaded guilty, this period is shortened to 10 months. However, his sentence is suspended for two years. In this period, Jay will have time to rethink what he did and if he has no other assaults, he will not be imprisoned. He is obligated to go to anger management classes, to do 200 hours free work and to pay in two months £500 compensation to the victim and £250 prosecution costs.
Jay is leaving the court room with his mum. When I see him for the last time he is smiling but differently this time. He is given a chance and he is visibly minded not to miss it. He is a young man, tempered but lucky. His blue eyes are playing now, he knows how to do things right and never be in that court room again.